Tag Archives: children

Santa, Baby

Parenting is an interesting exercise in examining your priorities. You can have really strong ideas about how you will approach a particular issue. Infant sleep for example. And then your child comes along and upends all your notions. You think the idea of “sleep-training” by letting your child cry sounds barbaric and awful and will definitely emotionally damage you and your child. And then your child will not sleep for longer than half an hour at a time at night for the first eight months of his life unless he’s sleeping in your bed, and boy are you tired and achy, and you just can’t stand it anymore.

So you decide that, really, letting your child cry will not kill either of you. And after a terrible week, your child learns how to put himself to sleep.

The most recent example of this shifting of priorities in my life has to do with Santa Claus.

One of the things I thought before I had kids was: I am not going to lie about Santa. No judgment implied of anyone who lets their child believe in Santa. It was just that as someone who believes in God (and someone who is not Christian, but celebrates Christmas in a mixed-faith household), I felt uncomfortable with the deity-like attributes Santa has acquired. The idea of teaching my children, once they reached a certain age, to disbelieve made me uncomfortable.

My husband didn’t feel the same way. But as is his wont, he humored me and let me have my opinion.

Now, meet my four-year-old son, N. He adores all things Christmas. He loves any celebration, really, but Christmas especially. He has already started losing sleep thinking about the holiday. We have been having great fun putting up our tree and decorating the house and wrapping presents.

And he believes in Santa.

If I say, Santa isn’t real, N thinks about it and disagrees. Because he’s seen Santa, in the mall.

If I reveal that I fill N’s stocking every year, he thinks about it and seems a bit befuddled and concerned. Because, why doesn’t Santa fill my stocking, he seems to be thinking, when he fills up all the other kids’ stockings?

Truly, I don’t mind that N believes in Santa. It’s more an issue of my own beliefs–I’m not so good at hiding them, as you can see.

And it occurs to me that in the future he may believe other things I don’t. And I want to always be the kind of parent who lets him have those beliefs.

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I’m no evil genius

Plotting doesn’t come to me naturally. I think it does for some writers (or so I hear). From the very beginning of drafting a story or novel, they know exactly what’s going to happen. They connect the dots, and voila! (I know it’s not that easy, but please just grant me for a moment my naïveté about other people’s writing processes.)

It hasn’t been that way for me. At the start, I knew that a particular historical event and historical figure (fictionalized) would be central to my novel. So that gave me setting – historical, geographical and vocational. I had several characters in mind, and I knew generally at what times in their lives the story would happen. I also knew a lot about my themes, although my understanding of them and of my characters has matured along with the novel.

But plot. Huh. I knew I sort of needed one, even if the novel wasn’t going to be plot-driven. At least a road-map for readers, a little momentum to keep them going.

I’ve recently written here about a scene that has finally come together. The scene centers on the disappearance of one of my characters. At first, she simply disappeared into thin air. Really. That’s what happened. No one knew where she was, most especially me. She never came back.

For a long time, I justified that plot point to myself: In my book, in my world, anything can happen. A character can just vanish into thin air. For no reason.

But as I’ve rewritten and revised other parts of the book, things slowly fell into place. Now her disappearance is explained and fits into an actual plot. (Not totally explained. As of now, readers don’t see the character’s disappearance from her point of view, and so there are still questions about what happened.)

I imagine that when I’m writing my next novel, plotting will be somewhat easier for me. But I’m also coming to terms with the fact that I’m not a linear writer. It’s sort of like – Lego building. Grown-ups and older children generally decide what to build and then start at the bottom, adding a brick or layer of bricks on top, and so on, and so on. But I’ve noticed that my toddler adds bricks underneath, to the side, all around. His structures end up being more organic and less building-y than the ones I build.

In writing, I think, I’ve kept my toddlerness. I move things around, add layers here there and wherever, and slowly the whole picture is coming into view.

I’m not saying this approach is better or harder or more rewarding than writing to the plot, or that it could result in a better novel. It’s just my way.

What are you plotting these days?

How to Lie to a Toddler

How to Lie to a Toddler

My son is 2 ½, and he sometimes obsesses about things. For instance, if we see his friend N as we’re leaving daycare, he’ll screech, “I want to see N’s car,” over and over again, long after we’ve left the parking lot.

I’ve found a strategy to minimize the screaming. I lie.

I point to a random car and say, “There’s N’s car.” My son says, “That’s N’s car? That’s N’s car! What’s N’s car doing?” There’s repetition, but it’s contented, not screechy, and everyone’s happy.

Now, lest you think I’m teaching my son dishonesty, I’d like to argue that he’s learning about imagination and storytelling and creative embellishment. The other day he pointed to a black postal worker driving a mail truck and said, “That’s A’s daddy.” (A’s daddy is Vietnamese and drives a Honda Pilot.) He seemed very pleased with himself.

Yesterday my husband and I were seeing if some friends could have dinner with us. We told our son that we might have dinner with Dave. (I’m using his name because it makes the story better. You’ll see.) It turned out Dave wasn’t able to make it. Our son started crying. “I want Dave. I want Dave.” This turned into “I want food. I want food. I want dumplings. I want dumplings” when we got to the restaurant. But then he returned to Dave. “I want Dave. I want Dave.”

I wanted a quiet dinner. “There’s Dave.” I pointed to the waitress behind the counter. My husband gave me a look that said, “That’s so wrong, but what if it works?”

And it did work. For about a minute.

Our son brightened and smiled. “That’s Dave. What’s Dave doing?”

“Dave is getting people their food.”

Blissful non-screaming. Until eventually he remembered that Dave is a tall white man with a beard, not a short Asian woman, and the yelling recommenced. “I want Dave! I want Dave!”

There’s a moral to this story, but I don’t think it’s going to sink in.

P.S. I don’t actually know if A’s daddy drives a Pilot. I may have made that up.