December 1, 2009


Mommy Writer

by KJ Greenberg

Most kids have moms who work. Some working moms are writers, a percentage of whom even write about their children. For moms, writing about “the kids” is ideal; we already spend the greater portion of our lives focused on our subject matter and our mommy readers find our work to be relevant, interesting, and dynamic.

For the kids, though, being written about can be horrible. According to my offspring, it is no fun knowing that your life is constantly being scrutinized, paraphrased, and, “well rounded at the corners,” just to make your experiences palatable for public consumption.

Even worse for the kids is a writing mom who doesn’t keep them in mind while she is creating. Whereas teens could not care less if their mom’s work has the publication longevity of the average web page, or the social status of the average pamphlet, they do seem to be concerned with whether or not their needs are “taken into consideration” in their mommy’s writing.

In my home, for instance, my adolescents manifest an almost perverse indifference toward the lifespan of my electronic postings and the name power of certain of my print outlets. My kids seem more interested in my jottings for select, short-lived niche sites than in my contributions to big, internationally-recognized distributors. Accordingly, they could not care less about any of the awards attached to my research findings or about the respect attributed to some of my literary achievements.

What my kids want is to rock their socks on my descriptions of their dad’s diaper duties and my paragraphs about their spilled cottage cheese. They are also happy when grooving on accounts of my own adolescent urban adventures, claiming that my “understanding” of their own “remarkable” actions should be enhanced by my reviewing such work.

Meanwhile, because they understand that they are powerless to: protest their mother’s exploitation of their experiences, make me generate more “tales from the crib,” or cause me to become more lenient because I documented, in the public domain, my own teenage capers, my young lawyers have chosen to invest their adolescent angst into critiquing my “voice.” It matters to them that my words are given over in a familiar, compassionate way. Despite the fact that these children parade bravado when confronted with media that I find frightening, they complain about any of my discourse that strays from who they need me to be.

Specifically, my flesh and blood editors yelp when they discover writing that is not, in their minds, child-friendly. The other day, for instance, I showed one of my teens a portion of a dark speculative novel, which I was just getting around to editing. My otherwise tough reviewer, a son who concentrates on take down moves and choke holds in martial arts and who adores reading fantasies robust with marauding armies, gasped at the pages in front of him. It was wrong, in his eyes, for his mother to be turning out graphic descriptions of malevolent human deeds.

He reproached me for my errant ways and reminded me not to overcompensate by writing fluffy stuff centered on the verities of “sweetness and light.” I smiled and nodded; he still is young.

I felt chastened, though. When I returned to my desk, having been thus cautioned, I felt less inclined to work on that particular piece of fiction than on other projects. My child had reified for me that my rationale for writing about my teens is less important, to them, than is my rationale for writing for them.

KJ Hannah Greenberg’s layered narratives have been published/accepted in an eclectic mix of dozens of venues worldwide, including Australia’s Language and Culture Magazine, and Antipodean SF, Israel’s Mishpacha Magazine, The Jerusalem Post, and The Shiur Times, the UK’s Morpheus Tales, The Mother Magazine, and Winamop, and the USA’s AlienSkin Magazine, The American Journal of Semiotics, and The Externalist. KJ Hannah Greenberg is a former National Endowment for the Humanities scholar, the mother of adolescent sons and daughters, and the caretaker of an entire hibernaculum of imaginary hedgehogs.