Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | August 13, 2014

Wednesday WIPpet, August 13, 2014

I give you 13 sentences of my memoir for the 13th day of the month.  WIPpet Wednesday is hosted by KL Schwengel.  If you would like to participate, post a date-related (calendar date, not romantic date) snippet of a WIP (hence, WIPpet) here.

My complicated childhood echoed through the years in odd ways. Although family is very important to me, I rarely tell any of my family how important they are to me. My sons encouraged that reticence when they were teenagers, fleeing emotion as if it were hydrofluoric acid. However, those sons also helped me learn how to be a mother to alien creatures, who acted nothing like their sisters. Furthermore, I had met my daughters when they were 5 and 3, so 0 to 3 was unmapped wilderness, filled with snapping wolves and lumbering bears. My sons laid to rest any nature versus nurture discussions I had in my mind; their drive and fearlessness taught me how to take risks, while making my face pale with fear. They put up with my inability to help them with math and physics homework, as well as my crying through nearly every movie I took them to see. Well, not Pokemon.

My daughters, who accepted me as a second mom, weathered my learning how to be a mom. I remember the stark terror I felt when my oldest daughter handed me a Barbie, inviting me to play with her. I had never played dolls with anyone in my life, and I knew nothing about being a child. She was very gentle with me, explaining the rules, “Barbies are plastic, so they can’t talk back to us. We can imagine them talking, though.”

Both girls guided me through playing in the park, swinging and talking, giving me a childhood I had imagined but never lived.

EM

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Responses

  1. I love the last part of this excerpt! The playing with barbies part.

    • Thanks, Adrian. My older daughter is such a caring person, and she showed it so early on, taking care of her bewildered parent so well.

  2. I think you must have had a very interesting life. Raising kids is such a rewarding and difficult experience, but moments like playing with barbies and the child explaining something to the parent like that are the memories you treasure forever.

    • It felt like a pretty normal life when I was going through it, Sirena, but as I got older, I realized how different it was. Being introduced to playing with Barbies happened almost thirty years ago, and I remember it vividly. You are spot on, it is something I will treasure forever.

  3. I love the part about playing Barbies! So sweet.

    I can relate to learning to parent “aliens.” I’m having to navigate all this new territory without the benefit of anyone to walk me through it. Scary stuff sometimes.

    • Thanks, Amy. It was a sweet moment, and in many ways, it flavored all the rest of our interactions (well, except when she was a teenager, lol).

      I have often said that parenting is the only job that comes with no owner’s manual or training program. The girls were little, but the age of kids I had babysat, so although it was terrifying in one sense, there were pieces of familiarity. Not so when I walked out of the hospital two days after an emergency c-section with a newborn son. Yikes! Scary stuff indeed. It made me yearn for a time of extended families living close by. If it’s any comfort, my youngest is 21, and all four kids seem to have turned out well. 🙂

  4. Such a different perspective on things through your eyes. Things that many take for granted, you had to learn as though it was a foreign language. You often comment how you felt it was a “normal life” when you were going through it, but later came to see it differently. I would respectfully argue that point with you. 🙂 Only because that life *was* normal. In my mind, ‘normal’ is a relative word, and quite different for everyone. Sorry, just random thoughts on limited caffeine.

    • Kathi, these are not random thoughts, or if they are, I agree with you. It was normal to me, and it took decades to learn things that seemed innate for my children. I think you gave me the focus for my memoir. 🙂 The times I had to learn things like riding a bike (on my own, which was, um, interesting!) pop up like constellations throughout my life. I love how you express it: “as though it was a foreign language.” It was/is absolutely that. Thank you!

      • Well then, glad I could be of assistance. 😀

  5. It’s interesting how your daughter saw her Barbies. Mine weren’t “plastic” to me. I know intellectually that I made them move and talk, but I don’t remember doing it. They did it. They had their own voices, they had their own actions and… well, it’s just strange. I had a similar reaction when the Boodle told me that his “Geeraff” was just a toy and “he doesn’t mind if I don’t hug him”. I still have trouble at times making those distinctions. I have to leave a room at times if some of my figurines might be offended by things I’m doing. I can’t stand having photos of people “looking out of the wall” at me (even though I feel obliged to do so sometimes).

    What does that mean? I don’t know. That’s normal for me, just as your childhood was normal for you. Our points of reference are the unique points on which our perspectives are built.

    As for aliens…. We’re all a bit alien to each other. I should hand you Lisanne’s books to read.

    • How interesting, Eden. I remember her dad getting in deep trouble for “talking for” one of the Barbies, after she’d explained to me. I think you hit the exact point, though, as Kathi was saying, normal is relative. And yes, we are all alien to one another–Lisanne’s books sound intriguing.

  6. Annalise knows that her Monster High ghouls, which she loves more than Barbies, aren’t real. Sometimes, she asks us to pose them while she’s asleep, so that she can pretend they’re alive. All of her dolls and stuffed animals are visual props for her storytelling.

    I love the ways in which your children introduced you to childhood – and I wonder if you realize that they could do that in part (maybe a large part) because of the freedom to be who they were that you granted them. I’ve never been a step-parent, but I know from my husband, who has one, that it can be easy to get the balance wrong…

    When you give a child love and acceptance, it’s truly amazing that it can heal the child within you, too.

    I’m really loving these glimpses into a you I didn’t know yet!


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