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Well said, Eric

Posted on by arlen

I can barely believe this was even raised as a potential issue. You choose in the child’s favor. End of story. If you can’t do that, and especially if you can’t do it without feeling resentful about it, then it’s long past time for you to suck it up, get over yourself, and seriously consider therapy.

said Eric Meyer. One of the rare instances where I had to seriously expend effort to avoid leaping to my feet and cheering as I sat there reading it.

The context of all this was parents who write about their children, having to choose between their writing and their children’s honor and privacy. I can believe a narcissist like Erica Jong would have a problem doing this (no, actually I’m surprised she felt it was a problem; probably a testimony to the power of motherhood that she even stopped to think about the issue at all). What I can’t believe is that someone in the same area code as reality would have a problem doing it.

My kids are grown, but while growing they entered into bits and pieces of my writing, but never in any manner they would consider intrusive, and usually only their good traits. You want a good example, take Lyn Johnston, the artist behind “For Better or For Worse.” It occurred to Lyn long ago, and she coped; the characters gradually moved away from her real family, and she added ones that didn’t have a real life analog, to maintain her family’s privacy.

Eric’s right, you do what you have to do. I wrote for print magazines long ago, and I write for websites now, and I can tell you: writing is just words on paper; the kids are real flesh and blood. If there’s any conflict at all between the two and you have to spend more than five seconds thinking about it, pack the kids off to a foster home and sign their adoption papers, you’re not fit to be in charge of future adults. Period. No weasel words there, and never going to be.

Your duty to yourself, your goals, your ambitions ends when you end. Your kids will go on past you. If you can’t put their best interest ahead of your own, don’t reproduce; we need you out of the gene pool, and I mean now! I’ve given up several of my own dreams because of the little ones entrusted to my care, and while occasionally I’ll spend a few wistful moments wondering “if only…” that’s all they are, idle daydreams. Because I wouldn’t trade one second of what I did with and for my little girls for years of living out whatever that dream was. And that’s what I did. I traded those dreams in for their dreams, because that was the Right Thing To Do. And if you ever resent doing the Right Thing, it’s time to make a reservation in the big house with padded rooms; you’re finished with reality, it’s time to move into that castle in the air you’ve been building.

(Sidenote: It still amazes me, in the light of the extreme popularity of the Lord of The Rings trilogy, that words like the above still need to be written. I mean, the entirety of the saga can be summed up in “No matter the cost, Do The Right Thing.” Even in Peter Jackson’s watered-down — but still excellent — movie series you get Gandalf’s great line: “all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” There are circumstances beyond our control in all our lives. So what? We’re not responsible for them, that’s what “beyond our control” means. We’re only responsible for how we respond to them. The whole essence of the series is in Gandalf’s phrase, and the question it poses us all: What to do? Frodo takes his point; you do what is right and while it’s OK to dream about not doing it, in the end you do it, willingly, simply because it *is* the right thing, and the tradeoff, to do the wrong thing in exchange for any perceived personal gain, is, in the end, unthinkable. Because when you look back upon it, all that really matters is the Right Thing. Oh, you can invent all sorts of rationalizations to make you feel better about doing what is more comfortable instead, but, as Tolkien points out, that path leads inexorably to Mordor. Sauron’s final weakness was he couldn’t imagine anyone doing the right thing simply because it was the Right Thing, as Frodo did, and that was his undoing. Is it a sad commentary on our times that we’ve apparently become so much like Sauron in our personal/professional lives that a newspaper article can be written from his viewpoint and be taken as a serious look at a “problem”?)

Reality requires of us that we make choices. And with every choice I make, I trade something for something else. I take up the one, and leave the other behind, to quote the wise philosopher John Hartford. I choose to have a Strawberry Yogurt for breakfast; this means I do not have a Raspberry one today, and it means I cannot have the Strawberry one tomorrow. It’s stupid to resent the consequences of the choices I make; it’s like resenting gravity because when I lifted both of my feet I fell on my butt.

Ecclesiates 3:1 says “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” There is a time to chase your own dreams, to indulge yourself. But there is also a time not to. And that time is when doing so comes at the expense of your kids. Or if you want a more earthy and direct phrasing for it, I’ll turn you over to an engineer friend of mine, a guy I admire greatly and who was heavily into auto racing (yeah, Rudy, I’m talking about you). He always had a sign up in his office: “When the green flag drops, the BS stops.”

The green flag dropped the second that child landed in your arms, parents. It’s time to stop your BS.

One Response to Well said, Eric

  1. I am in shock,
    I endured a childhood filled to the brim with guilt. I can remember as early on as 1st Grade wishing I hadn’t been born because of all the trouble I caused. At that early age (& probably even earlier) I actually accepted responsibility for ‘ruining my mother’s life.’
    My mother had a very effective tactic for dumping blame on me, she would ‘discuss the woes & pain that she had to endure because of me,’ with other people within my hearing range. It took me twenty years to stop accepting responsibility for a decision made befor I was even born.
    After reading two bloger’s comments on an article published concerning the, ‘problem choosing between writting and your child,’ I can’t even become angry. Instead I have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat… It makes me so sad thinking of the innocence these parents are taking from their own children. Isn’t it obvious when a child is young what their parents say is The Absolute Truth. “The sky is blue, the grass is green, Momy loves you & you cause her pain/ are bothering her/ take up time.” If a child hears this, it is taken as fact.
    Thank You for being a humane, human being & blogging your view. It’s people like you that voiced the truth about parenting responsibilities who helped me to realize I wasn’t born bad. As you said above, “If there’s any conflict at all between the two and you have to spend more than five seconds thinking about it, pack the kids off to a foster home and sign their adoption papers, you’re not fit to be in charge of future adults. Period.” You are correct. It took me running away at the age of 12 to feel like there are some realy great things about me. I had to get away from the verbal poison. (and yes I was happier homeless and hungry than with her)
    Again, I thankyou for writting the above article.

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