It's a Sunday morning. I'm sitting across from my husband at Starbucks during our precious ninety minutes of free time while the girls are at Sunday school. There is so much to process, so much living that happens each and every day.
I blog infrequently now, mostly due to the fact that my children are growing older. I do not write about their lives for public consumption, unless they specifically permit me to write a piece. Neither the trivial details of their days nor the monumental moments are mine for the telling, not in the way that I could share stories when they were toddlers.
In many ways, this self-censoring is difficult for me as a writer and a nurturer, because I have no doubt that reading about the struggles and successes our family encounters have been and will continue to be a comfort to other families who face similar challenges.
We have learned so much over the years about raising kids who, scattered among them, navigate wildly varying circumstances such as adoption issues, separation anxiety, severe allergies, giftedness, learning disabilities, sensory processing disorder, ADHD and the insufferable problem of having parents who want to talk everything out.
When my children were babies and toddlers, I functioned in survival mode, as do many moms and dads. The proliferation of parenting blogs connects us and helps keep us sane. We reach out to share the story of how our little toddler took all the clean, folded clothes off the bed and shoved them into the toilet to "wash them for mommy" because without the laughing emojis and sympathetic comments of others, we might flush the kid down the toilet.
Forming a community of parents, writing about our agonizing moments of self-doubt and shame when we lose it and scream back at our screamers, allow us to feel less alone during the isolating and terrifying journey of raising babies and young kids.
But I have found, at least in my own experience, that the problems and issues I encounter with my older children leave me just as hungry for connection with parents in similar straits, if not more so. I feel more alone at times with my older kids than when I was home all day on maternity leave, because I do not feel entitled to reach out to my community of parents about the issues my tweens and teens encounter.
A conundrum, a balancing of needs and privacy that must always tip in favor of protecting the child, leaves me wordless, a silent scream raging at the fingertips of my keyboard. A writer who cannot write.
I am learning ways around the red pen. I write by hand in a private journal, a safe place where there is no digital footprint. I use my blog as a platform to let others share their stories. Sometimes, I ask the kids for permission to write narrow, vague posts with non-identifying information that explore an experience we have had. The kids have complete rights of refusal. They can tell me yes, or no, or perhaps offer a quote that sums up their commentary on the matter.
When I do publish, the response to my issue-specific blogs is effusive, a balm of soothing connection from other parents who have faced that particular issue too. An outpouring of advice on what comforted their children during that type of sensory meltdown, a list of resources for gifted kids or kids facing that same learning disability, a funny anecdote about their coping mechanism for the raging meltdown in the loud restaurant. Spicy pepperoni pizza for breakfast, anyone?
Certain areas are absolutely off-limits. The social ups and downs of daily life, the friendship breakups and makeups and crushes and basically anything involving a personal relationship. The kids are very supportive about me writing a general parenting article about these types of issues, offering solutions and support to parents, as long as it isn't a detailed personal narrative. I've found this strategy to be one of the most helpful outlets.
Even so, there are problematic consequences to no longer writing about the hardest moments of my parenting experience, to only sharing a peaceful picture of the kids from the back as they walk in the park. It contributes to the "public relations" perspective that everything is rosy and wonderful and perfect, which has the unintended effect of making others feel more alone with their imperfect lives. So very much in our family's life is indeed a blessing and a joy, more than we could ever hope for or imagine, but there are also times of darkness, because we are humans and the bleak moments are part of the human condition.
Yes, the walking in the park moment is real and wonderful and gorgeous in its simplicity, but it doesn't reflect the hours of sibling fighting that came before it. The picture on my personal page of the smiling children on the first day of school doesn't tell the story of the ongoing separation anxiety that has gripped one of the kids every single day since, a wrenching panic that responds to neither reason nor reassurance.
As a parenting writer, I am working to find my way. There are so many shades of color that hide behind the dominant hue the eye sees. I've channeled some of my writing into fiction, with the Jazzy's Quest series for adoptive families. I'm working on a new nonfiction project about girls dealing with the sexualization of pop culture. October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and I'm planning to write a series of posts on bullying and social conflict. In November, I'll be running my annual guest series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days.
These writing projects are slower work than my personal-essay-style blogs. Instead of a free flowing process of writing, there is careful research to be done and citations to make and experts to consult. But for the true writer, this evolution is a natural part of growing and changing. A slight revision here, a new idea there, and we move forward. Always choosing hope, always turning our faces toward the sun. It is the right thing to do for our family.