All the things I didn’t find time to write at the writers retreat

I opened my drafts folder, and found this treasure trove:

I’m on a writing retreat with the kids at the moment. I had plans that I’d finish reading and reviewing The New Zealand Project, but I find myself instead wanting to write about kid stuff. A letter of solidarity and support to a friend who’s had a new baby. A post about being the “mummy magnet” – the feeling of the kids always always wanting to be around me, which I’m not entirely comfortable with but kinda also like, sometimes. I want to write about my younger one, how easy and delightful it is being his mum, how simple his needs are at this age, about his charming easy-going personality. I want to write about my older one, the fun we have together when it’s just the two of us, the challenges of a child who wants to be on the go all the time and turns into a whirlwind when he’s cooped up, and the confronting introspection kindled by parenting a child who is a lot like myself. I want to write about the two of them together, how glad I am seeing that brotherliness start to emerge, how proud it makes me.

I want to write about our busy modern lives, and how this makes it so much harder for people to flourish in the variety of ways that might suit them.

I want to take the time the kids are in the childcare to nap, or go on the waterslide, or go for a swim at the beach – to make the most of it because it’s so precious, but I find it harder to make decisions about what to do when time is scarce.

I want to write about the constant recalibration of parenting techniques with a boundary-pushing child, about how strange it is to think his teenage self will be parented by the very same people whose parenting style was forged in the fire of his preschooler self.

I want to curate this blog.

Also, being on holiday, I want to write about the challenges of holidaying with preschoolers. This is a unique holiday because there is childcare and the food is catered, which takes away a lot of the potential stress of being away from home – but also I’m practised at holidays now, which makes it heaps easier.

I want to write a letter of thanks to the at home parents who are the builders of community, who create connections between us, who absorb the stress of the fast-paced world we live in so that our kids can grow up in a slower environment and unfurl into adulthood at a more gentle pace.

I want to write about the middle class values of hard work above all else – and the class myth of doing the hard yards while you’re young and earning your spot in the meritocracy. Upper middle class parents coaching their kids on how to climb the ladder, while blocking other kids from getting on the bottom rung, then cheering “well done, you did it all by yourself!”, when their kid makes it to the top.

I want to write about raising children as a process of slow acculturation, how kids are pure humanity without a cultural gloss. Different kids find different aspects of the culture to be more congruent with their underlying personalities, which is why they might seem to be so mature in one respect and less so in another respect.  

I want to write about the privileged assumptions underlying a lot of gentle/ respectful parenting stuff, how unrealistic some of this type of advice is for many people.  

I want to write about perfectionism in parenting, and in life, and the intersection of individualism and perfectionism, and the horrible pressure this creates, and the way it shifts the focus from the need to find society-wide solutions. I want to write about the corrosive effect of individualistic progressivism on our political conversations, and the importance of collective action in achieving change, and the challenges of communicating this point. 

I want to write about protective factors against the busy buzz of modern life, things that I’m doing with my kids and that I think are useful – focused mostly on things that combine coping mechanisms for the world as it is with motivation to make it better. About how, six years out from converting to Judaism, it’s occurred to me that this is possibly why I found it so appealing. It might be no coincidence that it was while working long hours in corporate law that I found meaning in the idea of an ancient religion that sanctifies time, and teaches that is our collective responsibility to heal the cracks in the world.

I want to write about how to trust in the parent you are becoming – how the early years just are hard, and how most parenting advice is snake oil that tells you it’s hard because you’re doing it wrong – instead of hard because you’re doing something that isn’t meant to be done without support.

I want to write about entering the final scene of the early years, still in the midst of it but can see the other side, about the bittersweet knowledge that it’s edging away, about the smoothing of the memories – like broken glass rubbed and polished by the sea, the memories are dulled into something less sparkling, but more comfortable, pleasanter to look at, sharp edges gone, easier to carry with you.  

 

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