A guest post to motivate, encourage and inspire...
Writing With Sam
It was a throwaway assignment. The teacher even told the kids that they didn’t have to complete it over winter break if they didn’t feel like it. And so that left me to decide whether I thought it was worth the hassle, the haggle, the headache of getting my kindergartener to sit down and write in his journal.
Each page the teacher sent home had a title—Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Family Time—with a cheerful drawing at the top, a space for the kids to draw, then solid and dotted lines on the rest of the page to guide upper- and lower-case letters.
Sam had just started to write by himself a few weeks earlier. I caught him sounding out words—slow and drawn-out like an old record player—as he was drawing and labeling a diagram of the Titanic.
Somehow I was always excited about or expecting reading to come first, to be the first big, thrilling achievement. Writing was sort of subsidiary, right before math.
I have no idea why I thought that.
I am a writer. It’s what I do, where I am comfortable, what I love. And yet I don’t talk about my writing with Sam at all. It’s something I do in private—late at night, after he’s gone to bed and I finished reading bedtime stories and folding laundry and emptying the dishwasher. Writing exists only when I am alone with my notebook or laptop, when I can steal away a precious hour or two from the day. And when I encounter success—publication!—I rarely mention it to my son.
All of this struck me as I flipped through the journal pages and he protested the assignment. “Writing is boring and hard,” he whined. “We don’t have to do it!” I smiled at that, because yes, writing is hard and writing can sometimes be boring and it is true that we don’t have to do it. Even he can see that, with his limited experience.
It was time to come out of hiding. I brought out my notebook. I showed him articles with my bylines on websites and in print. “Writers write every day,” I told him. “I write every day.” He mulled that for a few seconds. He asked whether I kept a journal and we flipped through the small blue book I keep next to my bed to jot down the mostly mundane events of each day. Then: “Can we write together?”
He brought his sheets of paper and pencil to the kitchen table; I brought my notebook and a new pen. I made coffee for myself and hot chocolate for him. We talked about what he was going to write about—his new Playmobil set and our trip to Maine. I told him that I was going to write about writing with him. I could tell that he liked that.
We sat there across from each other—his little lips moving silently as he mouthed each letter, one small starfish hand gripping the pencil, the other splayed flat to keep the paper steady. We sipped our drinks and I helped him spell a couple of words. We discussed what should go in the drawing box at the top of the page and whether he should use colored pencils or crayons. He asked whether I will draw in my notebook and I told him that I usually just use words, but that I find the idea of using pictures really cool as well. Maybe I’ll give it a try.
The moment didn’t last very long—a couple of sentences and a few stick figures later we were off to other adventures. But I hope to try to repeat our little writing session regularly. I treasure the realization that writing is something I can do with Sam. That I can pass my love of writing onto him, that it can be a way for him to know me beyond my existence as his mother. That writing together might allow us to explore our ever-changing, evolving relationship as he grows—as I grow.
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