My teens pander to me whenever I espouse bothersome sensations related to my professional activities. After I’ve written lots of little bits, both those which have been published and those which have not yet been submitted for publication, I “sew” those bits into books. From poetry to interpretive nonfiction, to slipstream flash, I quilt my writing into grander pieces. Nonetheless, my teens remain unimpressed.
It’s more important to them that Mom pays for guitar lessons or that Mom listens, even with feigned interest, to their tales of shopping wonders or to their narratives about geometry tests woes. They want my attention when it comes to their disputes over who swapped who, for which chore, not my soliloquies about which editor is the most considerate and which editor is the most noxious. My kids could not care less about their primary care giver’s frustration at discovering that she submitted a long work to one of the “most wanted” fiends listed on Predator and Editor.
They tell me, as well, that their interest was insincere, i.e. that they had smiled and nodded to please me, their birth-person, when I ranted about an editorial board that held a novel of mine, emailed encouragement to me, and then summarily rejected that work.
Also, the kids admit that theirs was a manufactured form of fascination when their chief chaperone experienced dismay, upon learning that one of her newspaper editors really wanted to kill one of her columns. In short, my teens pander to me whenever it suits them, especially when I espouse bothersome sensations related to my professional activities.
My work attracts their attention only when my work provides means for funding more earrings, CDs, guitar lessons or other “entitlements.” That I begin my labors hours before they wake and that I continue my efforts long after the kids are in bed is immaterial to my youngsters. It is not that my kids’ lack of enthusiasm for my career evokes self-pity as much as it is that this situation evokes the feeling of being invisible.
As one of my delightful buds once commented, during a week that featured my receiving multiple acceptance letters, “Mom, we don’t know what it’s like not to have a mommy writer, so it’s no big deal.” Yet, that same young voice, upon publishing her first poem, considered it appropriate to mark her singular event with relatives, literally the world over.
Worse, these days, during a span which finds me more involved in judging, in editing, and in otherwise providing critiques of other writers’ works than has any other portion of my life except for the years I faced down graduate students in my university classroom, my teens regard my facilitating responsibilities in the same way in which they regard the dishes I wash or staircases I unclutter. Whereas such tasks help fill our accounts with funds, provide me with new clicks for my resume and give me something topical to say to my writing workshop students, my young adults’ attitude toward this new prominence is totally blasé. They need to engage, but not to congratulate, me. Tweaking my time means, to them, arguing with me about what we are going to have for dinner or trying to persuade me that we can fit another half of a dozen children in a small bedroom during a sleepover.
More so, if I deign to try to refocus our conversations to give some credence to more industry, the not-so-wee ones complain that my new line of work deprives them of my time. It’s not, as my oldest son “explained,” patiently, that they must engage me in talk about most of the facets of their lives. Rather, it’s just that the teens feel a need to be able to interrupt me whenever they are home, even if their schedules, together, cover most of the day and night. Apparently, in the eyes of my children, my working from home makes my kid emotional orphans.
I am attempting to accept that my essays and short stories are no more important to my offspring than is my sorting their laundry or than is my picking them up from school. I believe in their futures. In a few weeks, instead of sweeping the porch, completing their language lessons, or watering the flowers, I will assign them the chore of reading my “latest and greatest” oeuvre.