Thursday, May 10, 2012

Parenting, A Messy Business

As a teenager, I once so enraged my mother that she removed all the electrical items from my room--including my lamps. I sat in the dark, quite smug as I compared my sanity with her obvious lack of it. Often, my mother would say in exasperation, "I hope you grow up and have a daughter just like you."

Her wish came true: twice. Now I'm the mother of teen and almost-teen daughters. And I have so much compassion for all my colleagues in parenting--including those in fiction. I suppose I should feel some sympathy for my daughters for having a mother with a vivid imagination, and maybe I would, if raising them were easier.

Will these crazy characters turn out okay?

Every day I walk that fine balance between providing structure and allowing freedom. I dread that minute before midnight on a Friday night as I wait for my teen to walk through the door. Phew! She's alive! I want my daughters to live with passion, but not derail their lives by thinking that passion comes from a guy--especially the wrong guy, you know, the kind populating so much YA fiction. I want my daughters to love their imperfect bodies, rejoice in their intelligence, and ignore the unhealthy messages seen in magazines, TV, advertising, online...and some fiction (No, no, no! Don't sacrifice yourself for a guy/vampire/werewolf).

I've lived long enough to see that not everyone fulfills their potential, so I'm always searching for warning signs. Undone homework sends me into an imaginary spiral in which I envision my daughter, now in her mid-twenties, slumped in my basement watching Reality TV reruns and consuming scary quantities of red licorice. I've freaked out and ranted more than I'd like to admit. I apologize a lot.

I'm so unfortunately, unavoidably human. And that's the way I like to write fictional parents: good intentions, flawed methods. I love the messy dynamic between teens and parents--all those hopes, dreams, fears, and weaknesses churning as my characters work through other struggles.

I secretly hope that my readers will treat their own mothers with a bit more empathy... I know I do!

My mother thinks watching me raise girls is hilarious.



5 comments:

  1. Awww this is a great post! I was rewarded with my brother x 3 and I've got my fingers that he gets one Kimmiepopppins to even the score LOL!

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  2. I totally had to laugh, last night, totally pissed, I removed from my 14 year old daugther's room:
    a TV
    an iPad
    an iPod Touch
    a laptop

    And the girl doesn't read, she's left with nothing to do but school work. I wish I'd thought of removing her lamps and taking out the recessed lighting. Your mom was brilliant!!

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  3. Yes, yes, YES--PLEASE don't sacrifice yourself for a guy / vampire / werewolf!

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  4. I love this: "good intentions, flawed methods." It perfectly sums up the parents in my fiction. And, let's face it, when I become a parent one day, I'll probably be the same way. :-)

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