“Have you written your page yet, Mom?” I hear this question from my eight-year-old daughter, Cadence, on a regular basis. When the answer is “not yet,” she follows up with a “you better get going.” She's not being bossy or demanding. She's invested in this writing habit of mine. Through my daily practice, I have communicated that this writing habit is important. Sacred. Not to be disturbed. When I write, I'm a better mom and a better human. Cadence has already made the connection.
There are days when I wish I had a crystal ball. I'm curious. I want to know how my writing habit and commitment to this creative life will influence her. What will having a mom who pursued her passion, found the thing she was meant to do, mean for Cadence?
Elizabeth Gilbert answered that question in theory in one of her Magic Lessons podcasts. Elizabeth invited Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, to discuss pursuing creativity while being a mother. Elizabeth reflected on her childhood with her mother. “If a mother shows her children how to be a martyr, her children will grow up to be martyrs. If she shows her children a creative life, they will pursue their own creative lives. I'm convinced my sister and I both write because we saw our mom create.”
Cadence is watching me create. Elizabeth's insight encourages me to continue taking a stand for my writing life alongside my mothering.
One Saturday, Cadence taped art paper to the sliding glass door, pulled out her paints, and set out to “teach art to her students.” I was seated at the kitchen table with my laptop open working on my page. She was busy with her art, intent on creating the latest masterpiece.
“You're going to be famous when you write your book, Mom.” She talked while she painted. Her back was to me. I smiled at her confidence in my book getting published and then realized this teacher-girl was presenting me with a teachable moment.
“You know, I'm not writing to be famous. I mean it would be great to get my book published, but I'm writing because it makes me happy. It's my gift and talent and it's best to use them when we figure out what they are.” I watched her as she continued painting. I continued talking.
“What's exciting for you Cadence is you have the opportunity to try lots of things. You get to play and figure out what your gifts are and then pursue them. You could be a painter or a writer. A basketball player or a nurse. You've got lots of time to figure it out and then go be it. I can't wait to see what you decide.”
Cadence brings up my book and its characters regularly. “What's Astrid up to now, Mom?”
“Well, she's pretty sad right now.”
Cadence expelled a deep sigh. “Why Mom? Cause of her husband dying?”
“Yep. She's going to be sad for a long time.”
“Oh Mom, why does he have to die? You're the writer! You can make it so Reid doesn't die.”
“Every story has to have a problem to solve. Reid's death is Astrid's. But it's okay. Astrid's going to get better. She's got great friends who are going to love her through it. She's going to heal and create a whole new life for herself.”
My writing has initiated rich conversation with my school-ager that reinforces our family's values, what we stand for, and who we want to be in the world. I really love being a writer-mama. It's kind of the best thing ever.