Writing and the Tao of Parenting







Cassie Hooker


 
© Copyright 2022 by Cassie Hooker

 

Photo by Aditya Romansa on Unsplash
Photo by Aditya Romansa on Unsplash

Incontrovertible.

Websterís dictionary defines that word as: ďNot open to question: indisputable.Ē

Used in a sentence: ďThe fact that I watched the doctor pull each of our children from your belly by C-Section is incontrovertible evidence that they do, in fact, belong to us.Ē 

I had both my kids by C-section. I was knocked out for the first one, and, while the doctor yanked the second one out of my belly, I was going over the grocery list with my partner.

That first time, I was thoroughly laced with morphine. Once I woke up, I cradled my first bornómy spirited, attitude-stuffed daughter. Maybe ďcradledĒ is a bit misleading. Really, I just tried my darnedest not to drop her as a post-morphine body tremor with a magnitude of 7.5 on the Richter Scale shook me so hard that my partner had to hold the gurney to avoid having it, myself and our daughter roll out the door.

I didnít look at our little demon spawn with unadulterated love.

I didnít look at her with wonder for the miracle of birth. 

I didnít admire the beauty of her proportions, or the cuteness of her button nose and tiny pink mouth.

As the individual-serving-sized earthquake died down, and the initial horror had worn off (who made me a parent?), I simply looked at my wailing baby with no small amount of evil, gleeful anticipation. My tiny bundle of feistiness was no doubt wailing out her outrage at being brought into the world in such a completely undignified way, and I thought: ďWowÖ am I going to screw you up.Ē

Among the 10,000 little snippets of parenting advice people hand you as you patiently endure their well-meaning Buddha-belly rub, was a stupid little gem that likened parenting to building a piece of fine furniture. 

Iíve been offered that particular bit of awesomeness for writing, too. 

Technically Iíve been writing, in one capacity or another, since my little fingers could reach all the keys on my momís old manual Singer typewriter. Officially, I started writing in 2014óthree years after I figured out what caused my two demon spawn and tried to convince my boyfriend that we should stop doing that thing.

Donít get me wrong: I love my little weirdos. They fill my life with laughter. They fill my heart with a mixture of love, happiness, sadness, rage and despairÖand they fill my purse with odd little toys and bits of half-eaten food. On second thought, I can do without the half-eaten mystery food in my purse.

Whoever offered the furniture analogy to me, and I canít remember for the life of me who they were, went further to say that both writing and building furniture require the right materials and tools, a solid plan, strong construction, and a nice finish. If you have those, your book will surely build itself.

ErÖwrite itself.

I donít remember who it was, but I suspect that if I ever meet them again, one or the other of us will get slapped into the middle of next month. Iíll give you a clue: it wonít be me.

I think this furniture analogy operates with some pretty idealized circumstances. Imagine this: the would-be builder, who already has an impressively detailed plan, takes a leisurely drive to the lumber store, where they choose the exact lumber and supplies, completely unencumbered and with money being no issue. They take their spoils home, or where-ever they build furniture, and set to creating what will most assuredly be a masterpiece, with no do-overs and false starts. Maybe clean-up is a cinch. Maybe they even have coffee in their favourite mug, and it never gets any sawdust in it. At the end of a flawless process, maybe they have a beautiful piece of furniture.

If the analogy looks like that, then the assumption is that the writing process looks something like this: the would-be writer, who already has an impressively detailed plan, makes their way over to where-ever they like to write. They sit down, unencumbered, in a comfortable chair at a table or desk that is at the perfect height for them. On that table or desk is a computer that never freezes and closes down before they can save anything, or their favourite notebook and pen. Maybe the room is silent. Maybe they write best with music playing in the background. Maybe thereís a steady supply of whatever their favourite snack is. At the end of a flawless process, maybe they have a beautiful book.

Yeah, right.

Now, letís apply it to parenting: the would-be parent has a pain-free, vomiting-free textbook pregnancy. On the day of the birth, they make their not-so-leisurely way to the hospital, or where-ever they want to have their baby. They give birth, naturally and without medication, looking calm and beautiful the whole way, like some kind of birth-giving guru who is the sole possessor of the secret to having a natural and pain free experience. Maybe clean-up is a cinch. Maybe the husband never hears screams of ďYou did this to me!Ē Maybe the baby is wonderful, and sweet, and propelling it from birth to adulthood is as easy as 1,2,3. Maybe Mom and Dad become the fully-invested Pinterest parents that every other parent secretly dreams of being but canít manage without a socially unacceptable amount of wine.

I can only think that whoever first came up with that annoying little analogy must have meant it for something other than writing and raising children. They certainly couldnít have been talking about raising multiple children and trying to stuff a career into the cracks of being a parent. That particular bundle of awesomeness is rather like trying to build a full-scale model of the Taj Mahal out of popsicle sticks and white glue.

Now, you might say that Iím functionally literate when it comes to building things, whether itís a piece of furniture, a child, or a story. When it gets right down to it, I am a researcher and a gatherer. When I am about to embark on something, no matter what that thing isÖI research it like mad and gather everything I need for it. 

I look at all the books. 

I browse all the websites. 

I ask all the people.

I gather all the things, whether it be tools, baby gear or writing implements, and hoard them, like aÖwell, like a hoarder.

So, I went into both parenting and writing with the stupid furniture analogy in mind and as much information as I could cram into my noggin.

I was going to parent those children with my devastatingly awesome supermom skills!

I was going to write that book with my new-found awe-inspiring knowledge!

I was going to build that fine furniture! I was going to show it who was boss!

By the time both babies had landed, and I was about to set up shop as a professional writer, the confidence and stoic resolve I went into these two projects with had all but left the building. On any given day, my process (writing, parenting, it doesnít matter) doesnít look much like crafting a fine piece of furniture, with a detailed plan and all the right tools. Rather, itís like building a piece of flat-packed furniture that came with six different kinds of screws, an Allen Key that only fits one of them, and a whole lot of determination and four-letter words.

Bathroom time, for a parent of young children, feels like freedom.

If it were possible for them to have first names, then my bathroom and I would be on a first-name basis. A fortress of solitude, it is the one place in the home that pint-sized feet do not follow me. I used to go into that fortress for a few minutes of child-free time, just to keep my sanity in a busy household. Now I go into that fortress because itís the only place I can score a few minutes to myself to write. Itís not quiet, though: on the other side of that selfishly locked door, two children are calling my name repeatedly, asking for a snack, telling me about their latest artwork, or wondering aloud if their mum goes into the bathroom so often because she is secretly a mermaid and needs to wet her tail. 

I certainly donít have a mermaidís tail, but even when I have access to a proper chair to park my rear on, and table to set my laptop on, I find myself unfavourably comparing them to the toilet and the bathroom counter. 

The bathroom is a place of self-care for everyone, but the notion of self-care takes on a whole new meaning when you retreat there for your own sanity and to avoid murdering your little darlings. Plus, there is something almost illicit about hauling your laptop in for fifteen minutes of quality writing time. You can tell your partner you are going to watch something naughty. Nobody has to know what youíre really doing is nowhere near as naughty as what they think youíre doing.

At the end of the day, the kids are safely tucked into their beds, having got all the clothing and feeding and watering and learning and kissing and hugging that Child Protection Services says I have to give them. They are happy; their brains and hearts are full, and Iíve only screwed them up a tiny bit more than they were the day before. 

By the time they are adults, thoughÖwell, letís just say my parenting will keep some therapist in a career.

At the end of the day, Iíve written maybe four paragraphs, in increments of 15 minutes spread over 10 hours. Still, itís four more paragraphs than I had the day before and, sometime in the hopefully not-too-distant future, I may actually have a whole book. 

When I think about my writing career, I donít think of the process as building fine furniture.

I would like it to be that way, mind you. I would love for the words to come easily, and for me to have all the time in the world, but neither of those is the case. Instead, the words either move along in stops and starts, like a sled going over snow with grassy patches in it, or they burst out of me like that thing in the Alien movies. Right now, the piece of furniture that is my book is metaphorically sitting on the floor, in everybodyís way. The instructions are mostly in Chinese or French, and the thing that is taking shape doesnít look much like the original picture. Sure, when itís done it will probably look and work just fine. To get it from being an assortment of bits and pieces to a nicely polished finished product, however, I must first work on it in 15-minute bathroom intervals. Later, when the other two pieces of furniture are built, maybe I can actually leave the bathroom and (who knows?) sit at a desk to write.

When I look at my children, I donít see fine furniture, and thatís completely all right. I see two little beings that are made to last. I see two beautiful works of art whose crafter keeps on building them, keeps on shaping them as the years go by. I started them with a plan, but Iím making them into adults using what I have on hand, all the ingenuity I can muster, and enough coffee to power all my tools. Iím still using that single Allan Key, but damned if I wonít make it fit all the screws. 

After all, those two pieces of custom-made furniture are my children, no matter how often they tell their friends they have no idea who I am. Their weirdness is the evidence: my motherhood of them is a fact.

At this point, itís absolutely incontrovertible.


While currently being a student in the English program at UVIC, Cassie is also a professional content writer and researcher. In addition to regularly creating web content for local businesses, she has devoted much of the past 16 years to studying how dogs have shaped the path of humanity in their own individual ways. 

In her spare time, she likes to explore the wilds of British Columbia and grumble about the weather.
           


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