When it comes to communication, this hasn’t exactly been my best week. Maybe it has to do with the construction crew that just broke ground on two new homes right across the street from my house (and the sound of chainsaws, falling trees, and excavators that now make my skull vibrate between the hours of 7 o’clock and 5 o’clock). Or, maybe it’s because Mercury is retrograde and the cosmos have aligned specifically to scramble my brain waves. Then again, perhaps this blogging thing (a.k.a. regularly stringing all your thoughts together in a coherent, entertaining fashion for others to read and pick apart at their leisure) is just plain tough sometimes.
Whatever the reason, my past few days have gone something like this:
Step 1: Sit down at my computer and open Word.
Step 2: Stare at a blank screen (followed by a blank spiral notebook page) and get increasingly annoyed by a lack of ideas or inspiration. Let angst creep in.
Step 3: Get distracted by the internet, other people’s blogs, and social media for obscenely long periods of time as “research.”
Step 4: Jot down some notes, type a few things, and realize it sounds like crap. Delete. Follow this up with some self-destructive thoughts, like these:
Maybe I shouldn’t have started a blog. Three weeks in and I’ve already lost my mojo—shouldn’t I have seen this coming? Anything worth writing about has already been written. I should just forget it. I’ll have to go work for someone else—even if it is Walmart. At least then someone can just tell me what to do instead of me having to figure everything out by myself all the time. Yes, that’s it—that’s the takeaway here. Maybe this isn’t meant to be. I’m done.
Step 4: Walk away in a huff, deflated, but secretly hoping a lightening bolt of inspiration will hit later.
Step 5: Rinse, lather, repeat.
And so it was when I huffed off to my kids’ school this morning for a parent-teacher conference with daughter’s second grade teacher. Given that I had been ready to succumb to my nasty little gremlins, as a friend calls them, just moments before, having the opportunity to look at someone else’s strengths and weaknesses was a welcome distraction. Mrs. W talked about the fact that my daughter is a friendly, eager-to-learn, high performing, rule following achiever—all good things. But, she should really work on spicing up the writing in some of her vocabulary sentences at homework time. They’ve been a little boring, and a little too safe.
No problem, Mrs. W. I’m a writer myself, you know. I’ve got this.
I started with her first thing after school. (And before I start sounding like a tiger mom, this was actually the homework she needed to do tonight anyway. I swear.) She wrote her sentences, and afterward I found two—using the words overlook and humble—that needed rewrites. I gently explained why and suggested that we could think of some alternatives together.
I should’ve guessed this would go worse than I expected. Apparently, she said, she was tired of homework and was excited to finally be done for the week. Now, I had ruined everything. Then she cried. She wailed. She told me I don’t understand her (incidentally, she also managed to slip in here that she’s angry we’re not visiting her grandmother in California for Thanksgiving). She hid her head under a blanket, and then she shut herself in her room. And if you’re thinking this is a little over-the-top, then you might not have daughters. They actually are this dramatic sometimes. It’s really super.
I decided to let her be. A few minutes later, she came out with tear-stained cheeks, but wearing a grin. We had this conversation:
Her: Mom, while I was crying and acting all crazy in my room I thought of a sentence that might work.
Me: Cool. Let’s hear it.
Her: While I was doing my homework today, I overlooked the fact that I could have finished it a lot faster if I had not wasted so much time complaining and feeling sorry for myself. Do you think it’s okay to say that?
Me: Yes. I think it’s perfect. Definitely say that. What sentence could we create for the word humble?
Her: (thinking) Taylor Swift is rich and famous, but she seems to remain humble because she’s always nice to her fans.
She’s seven and she’s entitled to her opinion. It is her homework.
But what made it all really worthwhile (and gave me my light bulb moment) was about twenty minutes later when she said this:
Her: Mom, I’m kind of glad this happened. I actually think it’s better to do hard work because when you finish, and you do a good job, you feel much more proud of yourself than if you just let yourself do the easy things.
Suddenly, the choice to either keep writing or give up became incredibly easy. I received all the clarity I could have ever asked for from my seven-year-old.
My sweet daughter, it is with much gratitude that I am truly humbled.