We’ve hit another bump in the road, my daughter and I, and just as we did, I came across this old bit (a year ago!) on the ChaliceBlog about Anne Lamott who wrote about hitting her son, and all the other shame of it.
I’m not copping to my crimes here, mostly because I am still greatly ashamed of how I have behaved in response to my daughter’s mostly-typical-thirteen-year-old-I-am-the-center-of-the-freaking-universe attitude. I’ll say this, though, Anne Lamott has saved me on more than one occasion with her honest and less than perfect account of raising a child. Because I know that others are out there screwing it up and then apologizing for it, I know that I, too, will get through the next few years…maybe. And, because she has been my own personal savior and has also delivered to me a Jesus relationship I can stomach, well, I bend toward cutting her slack rather than cutting her off.
And, having said that, I’ll say that I started writing publicly about my daughters when they were 6, 4, and 1–before any of them could read well enough to understand exactly how much I was making fun of them. And, more importantly, I must admit that as much fun as they are to make fun of, I am usually the biggest butt of my own jokes. (And, yes, I did just use the words “biggest” and “butt” in the same sentence–adjacent to each other, in fact–while referring to me. I can do this. You cannot. Those are the rules; live with it.)
Writing about your kids is tricky business. A friend of mine writes for the other paper in the region and his oldest child–also a girl–is the same age as my oldest girl. We both came to the realization, independently and at the same time, that we could no longer, with integrity and compassion, write publicly about our children–especially because we both live in this small town. I told my friend how once one of my daughter’s teachers found out who I was, she told my daughter she had to read my column each week or she would get a demerit. I thought this was all in fun, so I let it slide. On retrospect, though, I’m glad I decided to stop writing about us, them, and her, especially. What torture that must be.
But, also, while my friend used his children’s names in his column, I have always left their names out of it. I identify them as oldest, middlest and youngest if I identify them at all. There was always a need to cloak them somewhat–something Anne Lamott has never done. And, while my friend’s children asked him to stop, my girls have said, reluctantly, they “kinda like it; it’s kinda cool” that their old mom writes for the paper (addendum to the rules: I can say I’m old, you cannot). Only one of the girls reads my column still, and she is the one who will someday be a writer or an artist or some such. She is reading the paper as I did when I was her age, only I read Erma, Ann, and the comics. She reads me, Dear Annie, and the comics.
Still, I find Anne Lamott necessary, as others may not. I need to hear her tell me how it is for her, as that informs my ability to tell others how it is for me. Does my writing resonate with everyone? Nope. Never has; never will. But I write for that audience most important: I write from my own integrity. Sometimes I have to “out” my kids for being imbeciles because that story is a part of my own growth as a parent, if you will. It is also part of their growth, to get called on being exactly what and who they are. And for parents to sit back and say, “Oh. My. God. It’s not just us. It’s not just me.”
What I like about Anne Lamott is that she generally comes to a place of understanding herself better, accepting herself better. Is this narcississtic (sp?)? Yes. It is also redemptive. I can say that I witnessed a lot of parental atrocities at the hands of others before I had children myself that I swore I was never, ever, never, ever ever going to do. Well, that’s also what I said about moving to Indiana and now I’ve been here for more than a decade. (No wonder I want to go to New Mexico for spring break.) And I could fill a book with all the horrible things I have done and said to this particular child (and just over the last two days), and some day I just might. Maybe I’ll cloak it as fiction; maybe I’ll title it “Daughter Dearest” and be done with it. But I won’t ever be done with this child. Neither will Lamott be done with Sam. If you read all her works about her son, it is obvious that they love each other and ‘get’ each other deeply. Which, I think, is what makes him being a shit more troublesome for her.
This is what ChaliceChick was getting at, that Lamott should wait and write about her son when he is old enough to consent. And who knows what kind of consent he might have already given. Who knows what is really going on in that relationship besides them.
But I can’t judge her; I won’t judge her. My house is made of the same kind of glass as hers.