Monday, June 14, 2010

What My Blogging Can Do, What It Cannot (5/7/08)

The upper elementary students were writing with chalk on the sidewalks and steps in front of Mia's Montessori school last week. I got a closer look and saw the marks weren't doodles or random scribbles - the children were transcribing stirring quotes as part of a poetry project.

One child had written E.M. Forster's words: “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” That idea stuck with me all day. It reminded me of what I used to tell my high school students: "We write to learn." These days, as a mother and a blogger, I understand even more that writing about our crazy world can help us to understand the experience, to name it, to give it order and the shape of a story.

Although most mom bloggers are familiar with guilty twinges from too much time spent in front of our keyboards, I'd venture to argue that blogging can help us be better mothers because it can help make sense of the controlled chaos that is family life. Advice columnist Cary Tennis says "Writing is like a sixth sense used to apprehend a reality not detected by the other five." Sometimes I look at the debris of a tantrum (occasionally mine) and I ask myself, "What the f-- just happened?" Then I write about it. And the writing helps me figure it out.

But sense-making is only one of many reasons moms blog. I nod my head in agreement as I read women who speak of finding friendships, sympathy, venting space, invigorating arguments, parenting ideas and support through their computer screens. Yes, yes, yes.

But where blogging leaves me wanting is one of the most common, and perhaps the most perfect use of blogs: capturing the moments as our children grow and leave their old selves behind.

I started posting over a year ago and much to my surprise as I look back on what I’ve written, I have not created an on-line storybook called My How My Girls Have Grown! Not because I did not want to, but because I cannot.

I can record the funny things they say. “Where’s the merote?” when Nora is looking for the TV remote. “P.B. scuse?” when she wants to leave the table. Mia says, “This balloon smells like my dentist!” and Randy and I burst into laughter.

But what I can't blog is an understanding of why these particular stories, these particular children, thrill my husband and me so much. It is something more than ownership or pride, more than seeing ourselves in them. Perhaps our fascination emerges from another dimension of love, one previously unfamiliar to us.

I can try to describe their thick curls and silky cheeks and chubby calves. I tell you about how Mia's eyes turn into down-turned crescents of glee when she laughs. I can tell you how the illustration on the Mother's Day Brunch postcard made me sigh because it reminded me of sitting on the stairs with Nora as she finished the last few moments of her nap, breathing in the heat and the scent that radiated off her face like a halo.

But I can't stop time. I can’t make that moment of peace in the afternoon go on and on.

I can describe the rules of the absurd and elaborate games they concoct – “Puppy Circus,” "Ice Skating Around the Table" "Monkeys Stealing Bananas" -- but I can't put my finger on where my pleasure in their rule-making and even my occasional patience comes from.

I can try to describe the magic of their movement - a skipping, hopping, spinning forward propulsion that is something like a dance and something like an animal's quick reflexes. But I can't quite describe their intoxicating smell, a smell I'm drawn to like that of a lover. A smell that makes me remember reading a passage from The Woman's Room in high school, long before I dreamed of being a mother, a few sentences that made me pause and wonder "Is this how mothers love their children?"

Here, I looked it up: "There were moments of beauty. Sometimes, before she made the boys' bed, she would think about them, and love would gush into her heart, and she would lie down on their beds and smell the sheets, bury her face in them. The beds smelled just like the boys."

And I can't quite capture my pleasure, my sense of a circular journey when I also do this very thing.

I can try to write of the squeaky sound of their undeveloped vocal chords, of the way Nora's thoughtful use of the word "Actually," cracks me up, of our tolerance of Mia's new-found love of yodeling.

But I can't blog an understanding of the incredible satisfaction that comes from watching Nora eat her long spaghetti noodle, with concentration and relish. Yes, she is beautiful, I can recognize that in a detached impartial way. Her tangles are white-blond, her eyes are a faded sky blue, her cheeks are round. But people drive by sunsets, like the lovely one tonight that is slowly fading through the window behind my shoulder, dismiss them summarily as everyday occurrences. I'm not as sure that this is a deficit in my descriptive powers so much as the growing pains of my expanding heart.

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