Real Stuff

by anna on January 29, 2010

Anna Edie Mini

Last Friday I wrote a guest post about being an alcoholic for Stefanie’s blog, and some of you guys went over and read it. One of you, in particular, who has been reading me for a long time, liked the post because you said it felt “real.” This made me think a little bit. Because I like to think that what I write here is always real, but sometimes I take a particular slant to things or emphasize one thing or the other, but it’s all genuine, so that’s real, or a version of reality, right? But then I was thinking, there’s definitely a difference between what I ordinarily write and a post like this one from BHJ View definition in a new window, which I could have written, maybe, if I were a little bit more gifted, and also a little less self-conscious about form. I don’t have a close friend who killed himself, but I did have Tanya, which is pretty much the same thing, she was cast in the same role, more or less, as Skip was for BHJ View definition in a new window. But instead of just writing about that, I have to change everything around into some different form, I’m going to “fictionalize” a part of my past, and put it in the second person, and that way you will all know that I’m writing about myself but I can still feel detached from it a little bit, just enough to write about it.

Surcey, your comment made me think about the topics I haven’t really talked about here, and why. Some of them are for practical reasons, but others are . . . I don’t know why. I guess sometimes I feel worried that I’ll sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself, or that I’ll hurt people’s feelings. But the thing is, who am I writing this for, anyway? Are these people I’m worried about actually reading this blog? And if I sound self-indulgent and like I’m feeling sorry for myself, well isn’t that what most bloggers do, anyway?

Just give me a couple ideas to riff on and I will go on and on about genre for like fifty years and bore you all to death.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately: I’ve been thinking about what I would have to do to Mini to make him into a kid like I was. I don’t want to make him into a kid like I was, mind you, I’m just wondering what it would take to do it. Because when you’re a parent, you start living your childhood over again a little bit through your kid. And the other day, Mini had just gotten this toy robot from a store, just a little black robot that kind of wiggles and walks, and he was so excited about it, and proud of it, the way two year olds can get about things that are new (which is pretty much everything, when you’re two). And one of his grandparents was there — I won’t tell you which one — and that grandparent looked at the robot and said, “I’m not impressed,” and then two things happened in quick succession: 1) I seriously considered the consequences of punching said grandparent in the face with a closed fist; and 2) I saw the air deflate from Mini’s chest — just a little bit, since it was someone he barely knows anyway — but still enough to almost bring me to tears.

A few years ago I ran into an acquaintance of my parents’ who had not seen me since I was in high school. I spoke to her for a few moments and thought nothing of it until I later heard that this woman had been shocked to see me so happy and functioning so well. She had said that, as I child, I had always struck her as “morose.” I cannot argue with that assessment, and certainly the addition of anti-depressants to my life has something to do with that change. But still, I go back to wondering what I would have to do to Mini to make him into a morose child. Is it some kind of switch that gets thrown at some point, and parenting has no real effect on it? Or is it even more banal than that — too much time left in a crib or a play pen, not enough Mommy and Me time, not enough declarations of love and value? I don’t know. I think about it, but not because I’m worried about it. I already know that Mini’s experience is totally different from mine, and I never worry about him the way that it pains me to think of myself as a child.

This morning I was getting Mini ready for school and, as has been the case of late, he was not pleased about it. So I told him, “Mini, you know that even when Mommy’s not there, she’s with you, in your heart. Just like I always carry you with me, in my heart,” and I pointed to my heart. I think he understood me. I never decided to become a good parent. It’s not like I set about studying how to do it, or what I should do when, or had a checklist of the stuff that I should do to make him happy. I just had a baby and that imperative was there, to protect him and hold him close to me, and over time that grew into something more like a special bond. I don’t think to myself, “I should go snuggle Mini,” or “Have I told Mini that I love him today?” or “Maybe I should tell Mini his new robot is cool.” I don’t think about any of that stuff with Mini. I just do it. I don’t really see why it’s so hard.

{ 27 comments }

surcey January 29, 2010 at 3:02 am

Anna- I love you in 2nd person, love you in 1st. It just struck me as very easy seeming, that post on Stephanie’s blog. I think your fans are really interested in what’s inside your head- not necessarily the sanitized/detached versions only. I love to see you evolve. You go, girl.

anna January 29, 2010 at 11:13 am

Thanks. Your comments make me think about what I can do differently or new ways to write. Sometimes you have to switch things around when the old ways start to feel like a chore.

Kerry January 29, 2010 at 4:59 am

“I don’t really see why it’s so hard.”

Exactly. EXACTLY.

I can’t even comment further because I will get all upset and say things on the internet that I shouldn’t…but really, it’s NOT so hard. That’s why it’s so painful for people who have parents who…didn’t.

Ugh. Now I need kleenex.

anna January 29, 2010 at 11:15 am

It’s tough to balance what to say and what not to say. I’m not sure I did that super well in this post, but I guess we’ll find out. I’m pretty sure that the involved parties don’t read this blog, but you never know. Also, you never know what people remember and don’t remember about things, I think it’s totally possible that I can tell stories and people don’t recognize themselves.

Which kind of makes it worse, actually.

Jenni January 29, 2010 at 5:12 am

Ditto, Kerry. My dad, who’s only met Oscar three times and Miles once, came to visit last spring and he said something harsh to Oscar – like Oscar was not sharing a toy and my dad was unnecessarily harsh about it, harsh enough to bring tears to my not-quite-two-year-olds eyes and I just froze because I almost could not believe he’d speak to MY child the way he spoke to ME as a child. And then I decided that it was okay with me if they never saw him again, and they haven’t seen him since. I’m glad.

anna January 29, 2010 at 11:17 am

See, that’s what I think, and then people will say no, you have to forgive your parents, blah blah blah, but I don’t think that’s it. I’m not actively angry with anyone in my life, there’s no forgiveness that I have to grant. It’s more like, “Do I want this stuff around my kid or not?”

I get that people do the best they can do, and that their best maybe doesn’t look like my best. But that doesn’t mean that I want my kid to have to deal with it.

home and uncool January 29, 2010 at 7:38 am

When you wear your love like a comfortable sweater, it warms all those who are important to you. Congrats, Anna.

anna January 29, 2010 at 11:17 am

Thanks.

beth aka confusedhomemaker January 29, 2010 at 8:25 am

And to answer the question about what I think you value, this post says it…it’s your love for Mini, Mr. Right Click, & your family (not the one you were born into per se but the one you’ve made) that I can tell you value Anna. By what you share about them & what you don’t. It’s clear that you love & value them.

anna January 29, 2010 at 11:17 am

Thanks, Beth.

Becky January 29, 2010 at 8:36 am

Oof. I totally felt the deflation of that moment with the robot.

And no, it shouldn’t be so hard. Plenty of people make it look that way, though.

My youngest is three and a half, and sometimes I joke that our parenting work with him is mostly done. Except I think it’s kind of true. I think we wire their brains up in a certain way in early childhood, and we mediate their experience of the world, and then they kind of are who they are. I will stop because I could go on for fifty years and bore everyone to death.

anna January 29, 2010 at 11:19 am

I do think that’s true, that the computer is kind of programmed at that point. Like, they don’t have direct access to all those memories, but they shape who they are for the rest of their lives. But obviously some of it has got to be hardwired before we even come on the scene, because there are kids who come out of great homes who go bad, etc.

It’s kind of freaky to think about, though.

Kat January 29, 2010 at 9:37 am

This is a fabulous post. I agree with you one hundred percent “I just do it. I don’t see why it’s so hard.” I just snuggle, tickle, play with and love him without even thinking. You sound like a fantastic mother, keep up the good work.

anna January 29, 2010 at 11:20 am

Thanks, Kat. I hope you’re right!

Ginger January 29, 2010 at 10:37 am

I’ve been reading you..almost since the beginning of this here blog, if I remember correctly…and you’ve always exuded a little, for lack of a better phrasing, space between you and what you write. Yes, you have the 2nd person accounts, but again, there’s that distance. It’s not bad–if that’s who you’re comfortable being as a blogger, obviously some of us keep coming back! But if YOU want to close up that space, as a writer/blogger/person, then I say do it. You know your own boundaries best, but sometimes it’s worth testing even your own limits.

And the robot thing with Mini? Ouch. That hurt my 30 year old heart, bless his little 2 year old one. Back in my church-going days, a pastor gave a sermon on parents and parenting that was a huge revelation for me(and really helped me let go of a lot). He said, just because they are your parents doesn’t mean they’re good people, or that you have to care what they think. It doesn’t mean that you have to like them, or even love them, contrary to popular opinion. If they are the source of pain, you are not obligated to them just because they raised you. Because not everyone is really a parent. They may have had kids, but they’re not all parents. I think that can easily be extrapolated to grandparents as well.

Oof, I’m apparently long-winded today…you’ve just hit on something that is really close to my own heart (and obviously a lot of other people’s).

anna January 29, 2010 at 11:22 am

I’m not really sure what I want to be as a blogger, actually. I just feel like I can expand how I do things a little bit, and there still are some things I won’t write about, but that doesn’t mean everything has to be fictionalized or made abstract. I don’t know . . . I guess we’ll find out.

That’s a good way of looking at it — that some people just aren’t parents, even if they have kids. I guess I have to remember that there was a time, not so long ago, when having kids was what people did, no matter what, without evaluating if it was a good idea for them or not.

Susan Tiner January 29, 2010 at 3:15 pm

“Also, you never know what people remember and don’t remember about things, I think it’s totally possible that I can tell stories and people don’t recognize themselves.

Which kind of makes it worse, actually.”

It’s part of the story of not being a parent, the not remembering.

I think most kids want relationships with all of their family members, even the ones who behave badly. Mini might be kind of fascinated about the stupid comment, about why this particular grandparent doesn’t offer the same kind of love that you and Mr. Right Click give him, because that’s really different from what he’s used to. But he still knows he’s safe, and that’s what’s neat about having wonderful parents–you can sort of test/explore the nastier aspects of life without getting utterly destroyed, because you’ve got your safe zone.

Re: writing, John Updike used to hate giving interviews because he didn’t like having his thoughts from a particular moment of his life recorded forever. He didn’t like being asked years later why he thought or said or wrote so and so, because his mind just evolved. I think it’s great to explore. At the same time, I would listen to your gut. If your gut tells you it’s best not to write about something, it’s probably right. One of my favorite writers, Robertson Davies, waited until he was really old, after both of his parents were dead, to write about the stuff he couldn’t write about while they were alive. But maybe he was also just ready–maybe it took a lifetime to get ready.

anna January 31, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Susan, that’s interesting about John Updike. Kind of like actors who don’t like to talk to the press because they don’t want their personal lives to cloud the reception of them as characters. There’s some logic to that, but it also seems limiting. If you want to be a blogger, you probably have to abandon the idea of keeping up that kind of pretense all the time.

lynn @ human, being January 29, 2010 at 3:56 pm

I was once accused of being a confessional poet, and for sure now I am a confessional blogger. I put almost all of it out there, and I get all angsty when there’s something I want to write about, but I don’t feel like I can . What I’m trying to say is you have your blog voice, and it’s deliberate and it works for you, so don’t worry about it. If you ever want to come clean about stuff and go on and on, you’re welcome to guest blog on my site anytime because you’d fit right in (lol)!

Re: parenting and love of child, sometimes I love Lauren so much it hurts my heart. She’s 8.667 (as she told me yesterday, having figured it out on a calculator), and she’s getting to the point where she doesn’t love my hugs and kisses and my hand smoothing her hair CONSTANTLY & etc. Last night, when she was asleep, I crawled into bed with her. She rolled toward me and put her arm around me, still snoozing, and it made me cry with happiness. When I was a kid, I was happy on the outside, but I suffered from depression from a very young age and never really felt loved by my parents because (drum roll) I need physical expressions of love and that’s not how they roll. The physical may not be how my kid rolls either (her dad isn’t that way for sure).

I know there will soon be a time when she won’t want to hold my hand walking down the street and I won’t be able to tell her it’s about safety anymore (when it’s really about love). I told her the other day that even when she tells me not to, I will hug her and kiss her and smooth her hair, and try to hold her hand. To which she rolled her eyes.

We do the best we can. I believe that , even of my parents. Today, we have so much more awareness and support and access to information and tools than our parents ever did.

anna January 31, 2010 at 3:23 pm

“confessional” is usually used as a pejorative, though I don’t think it should be necessarily. I do think you can talk about things in a direct way that is still literary. I’m not sure what my place will be in that whole dialogue.

Becca January 29, 2010 at 7:56 pm

I think, if you live with an abusive marriage for 10 years during your children’s most formative years you can create (or help create) that kind of child quite easily.

I know that it is one of my biggest regrets about my oldest two. I look at my youngest (6), and I feel bad that my middle two (13 and 11) will never experience that innocence. 6 would never think that someone would hit her out of anger, or call her stupid, or make her feel ugly. 6 doesn’t know that some parents get drunk and hit their kids, or touch them in the wrong way. And, I am glad she doesn’t. But, part of me feels awful that I took that innocence away from 13 and 11. 6 has a kind of sweet spirit the other two have never had.

I know I just keep writing, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

anna January 31, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Becca, as long as you aren’t the one who was doing the abuse, I don’t think you have to take responsibility for stuff like that. You got out, that’s what counts. :)

monkey January 31, 2010 at 1:59 pm

I think you should do whatever you want in terms of your style (your blog,duh) but I want to say that I kept reading you because I felt you put more time and effort (compared to other bloggers) into writing posts that were a little less raw, histrionic, stream-of-consciousness-esque and reliant on certain bloggy-style conventions that now drive me up the wall (capitalisation for emphasis). I don’t know-I mean, I agree that it gives your posts a certain emotional distance compared to people who write about their throbbing hearts and such, but I also feel like you put time and effort into crafting a proper sentence.

Please note that I do all the things that annoy me on my own blog. Then again, I’m not holding myself out a writer (just a whiney lawyer).

anna January 31, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Monkey, that’s really valuable to know. There might be a happy medium between being more direct but also putting time into crafting the posts. I think that bloggers tend to be confessional AND they tend to do stream of consciousness, one-draft posts. There’s no reason why I cannot polish things even if they are less abstracted or fictional. I like getting this kind of feedback because it helps me push myself.

Lisa January 31, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Sometimes I think I am so much better of a parent than my mom was. Other days I wonder if that was overconfidence. Being a “good mom” to my small children was easy. Teenagers freak me the hell out. I have no idea if this is the moment that will lead them to drugs and if I should yell or be understanding.

anna January 31, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Lisa, yes teenagers are a whole other ballgame. I have no idea what I’ll be like as Mini gets older, but on the other hand, I think a lot of my own problems in teens and later life were exacerbated or started by (?) the foundation I got as a young child. Either that, or I was just born with faulty genes, or both. I would guess it’s some combination of all of these ideas.

Denise February 1, 2010 at 11:54 am

Whatever way you choose to write Anna, I am going to support you. I love the mama you have made yourself into and the pal you’ve always been to me.

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