Lewis is starting kindergarten and Maeve Binchy is dead…

So… on Monday morning… everything will change.

Well, not everything.  But on Monday  morning, everyone in this house will wake up and get dressed, eat breakfast and brush teeth.  And then everyone but ME will leave.   Because Lewis is starting kindergarten. Kindergarten!

Time is a slippery thing. I don’t get it.

For instance, it feels like only a few years ago, maybe five, that  I was finishing college, then heading to Iowa for grad school.  At the same time, it feels like I’ve been living in this house for about ten years. How is that possible?

Most especially, it feels like I’ve always been a mom, and yet… it feels like moments ago, moments, that I was bringing Lew home from the hospital.

And now he’s five, and he has his own damn Star Wars thermos, and he’s going to leave me, to spend half his waking days with people who aren’t me.

This is, of course, AMAZING and AWESOME and I will (I hope) write my little fingers off, and (more likely) have lunches with friends, and occasionally exercise or clean my room or brush my hair.  But I really can’t get over the idea that he’s done being a little thing. My little thing.

As he will tell you himself, he is now “medium sized.”


So I’ve been thinking about this, naturally, and feeling all melancholy (it goes well with my sinus infection).  And then I read this stupid article about mothering (not parenting) and writing, which basically asserts (among other things) that children transform you, and give you access to extra-special sparkly emotional depth, but also that each kid sucks four books out of you. Four.  It’s nice how they have that all worked out.  This meditation somehow springs naturally from the author pondering what Maeve Binchy might have written if she’d had kids…

Now, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I love my kids. I LOVE being a mom.  I absolutely have been transformed by my children, and most parents probably feel the same way.


You (whoever you are) have been transformed too. By your cancer diagnosis or your gender reassignment or your overdose in college or your religious conversion or your divorce or your realization that you want to be a pastry chef or your work with Tibetan refugees or growing up on a farm or being very very rich or poor, or living in Manhattan for decades or learning to drive at the age of fifty, or losing your spouse, or being homeless or regaining the ability to walk after ten years or struggling to have a child and not getting it. NONE OF WHICH I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED.

Seriously.  SERIOUSLY.  We all have different emotional landscapes, informed by the experiences we’ve chosen to have, and the experiences we’ve had thrust upon us. And the beautiful thing about writing is that we get to hear the diversity of those voices. I hate the idea of everyone having the same experiences. Books are how I experiences all the other things, the things I didn’t do, and won’t get to do, because I was TOO BUSY HAVING KIDS!

Is having kids transformative? Duh.

Is it more transformative than losing your sight?  I dare you to suggest such a thing.   And if it isn’t, should we all then go pour bleach in our eyes so that we can gain this particular emotional insight too?  What would that do?

What we experience is one thing. How we choose to process that experience, and what we do with it, and who we become as a result is another.

Also– four books a kid?

Hell, I’ve written 12 (published) books in the six years I’ve been a mom.  I think that’s plenty, thanks.  If I hadn’t become a mom, I doubt I’d have written any of my books.  Because however tired I am, and however limited my time, for me (I only speak  for me) parenting has not sucked the work out of me.  On the contrary, being a mom has been largely about learning to be efficient, making every quiet moment count.

But of course, that’s not what it is for everyone.  I’d never try to reduce the experience that way, suggest I know what it means to anyone else.

Which is funny, because heavy-handed reductionist essay/rant blog posts are KINDA MY THING.






8 Responses to “Lewis is starting kindergarten and Maeve Binchy is dead…”

  1. Claire Hennessy Says:

    GREAT post here, and great response to that Article Of Vileness And Idiocy. (I’ve heard so many writers who are mothers note that they started writing AFTER they had kids, rather than before – and it’s never to do with the special sparkly motherly insights, either.)

    “What we experience is one thing. How we choose to process that experience, and what we do with it, and who we become as a result is another.” YES!

  2. Stacy Says:

    Laurel, this is you at your best. I totally adore you. And your “medium-sized” people.

  3. Sara Ryan Says:

    This really is stellar. Thanks for writing it.

  4. Venessa Ann Schwarz Says:

    I love this Laurel! I’ve been writing since I was fourteen years old, and when my little guy was born eight years ago … it wasn’t even a bump in my writing journey. In fact, I grew as a writer too as he literally grew up to be “medium-sized.” Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts, they give pause for reflection. And good-luck on Monday!

  5. Joanne Levy Says:

    Thank you for this. As a woman who doesn’t have kids, but who writes for them, I appreciate your words so much.

  6. Top Picks Thursday 08-09-2012 « The Author Chronicles Says:

    [...] you are a mom (or dad) writer, these two posts will resonate: Laurel Snyder on motherhood and writing, and Tonya Kappes celebrating the return of school—and her writing [...]

  7. Melanie Says:

    You said EXACTLY what I was thinking when I read this article. We all have different experiences and that’s what makes books so great. As a mother with four kids, I could probably bring a lot to a book about a mother raising four kids, but even a woman- or man- without kids could do the same and bring a whole different point of view to it. Neither would be right or wrong, or have more emotional depth than the other, they’d just be DIFFERENT.
    Great post!

  8. Rachel Says:

    Totally agree about being efficient and using every moment wisely as a mom. Another mom and I met last fall through the preschool both our toddlers attended and last February we wrote a novel together in a single month. (Plus, she had a newborn on her lap all day.) Years have gone by for me with dreams of writing books, long walks, coffee-filled afternoons, staring at screens. And then boom we had this condensed, inspired period I suddenly got more done in one month than in some decades, writing-wise.)

    The main thing I did was work on the novel instead of checking Facebook or email in the morning. No free time in the rest of the day. Kind of goes along with that adage, “If you need something done, give it to a busy man”.

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