Growing Up To Write a Book

There are a thousand opportunities every day to consider how having children has changed my life. From the mundane–I now know all the words to the grating Wow Wow Wubbzy theme song (but I’ve also gotten to re-learn hopscotch and Patty-Cake); to the significant–I am now terrified of flying, as far as I can tell because I deeply understand the value of life.

But the greatest notable aspect of having children is that Henry and Clara have forced me to grow up. And by grow up, I mean be the best version of myself I can be. Self-awareness is a hard thing to do—to question, reflect, choose. Those two little angels are over my shoulder every moment, watching me. Sometimes the responsibility is overwhelming; sometimes it is a joy. I’ve learned to (*mostly) put aside emotional indulgences like resentment and I’ve begun to master the art of talking quietly when I want to yell.

Most importantly, the growing up Henry and Clara have forced upon me has meant that I’ve followed my dream of writing a book. I had a dream, I knew it, felt it, poked around its edges. It was always with me. Yet, before children, I never held it. My dream sat alone in an area of my mind for years, waiting for me to grow up and take it.

Henry and Clara, with their pudgy fingers and insistent wails, their questioning eyes and rosebud lips, their innocence and unfettered happiness, awakened me. I want everything for those two: I want them to know their dreams, to live with them, to hold their dreams tight and take them seriously.

If I want that for them, I want it for myself, too. Not only for my own happiness, but because they need someone to show them how. Just as I want them to know how to control anger and tie their shoes, I want them to know how to live their dreams.

The past two years of Finally Writing A Novel have been full of milestones. I now know why people use the word “journey” ad nauseum. The accomplishment of typing the final page felt like satisfaction enough. The encouragement from family, friends, and early readers urged me on in editing and taking steps toward publishing. And there is more that awaits me.

I think often of the moment I first get to see the cover design; the moment I hold the pages in my hands; the moment I read the first positive review (and, yes, the first negative one; I will love that reviewer too, at least a little).

But what I look forward to most, is the moment I open the cover to see the very first words:

For Henry & Clara

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21 thoughts on “Growing Up To Write a Book

  1. SO precious- I have tears in my eyes Jess! I agree about having kids. Before having Michael and Owen I thought I was going to teach my kids how to be a good person. It turns out they are teaching me how to be the best I can be. I hate being away from them so it’s forced me to really focus on making a difference in my professional career- one that will impact them directly. I want my children to see me flourish so they understand how to do the same.
    Can’t wait to read your book 🙂

    • Such a good point–I also imagined myself teaching my kids how to be good people, but that skips the step where you first have to brush up on your own goodness.
      Thanks for your encouraging words!

  2. So beautiful. And, you should remember that ‘growing up’ and reaching your dreams doesn’t just teach your children; it puts a nugget in many other people’s minds about the ability to strive for their own big goals. Good for you for being brave.

  3. Amazing! Having children is a journey in itself, and finding your “adult” inside of you, while chasing, discovering & realizing your dreams, it’s one of the best gifts we can give our children.

    Any advice on how you managed to stop yelling at your children? With two at home, I imagine there are plenty of opportunities to practice talking quietly while you want to yell, how did you start mastering that fine art?

    • The keyword is “start.” I’ve only started. I fail too often. But I have gotten way better at it. I try not to feel too bad when I snap at them, because that’ll just add stress and cause me to yell more. I remind myself as often as I can that I believe there’s no reason, ever, to yell harshly at a child–I remind myself that they are children and I can’t expect them to act like adults. All those things are leading to a natural ability to remain much calmer when they’re acting up.

  4. Love from MN Jess. I too am always reminding myself to reach for my stars, because I still have them just as much as my kids do. And I know I will see, “For Henry and Clara.” ( and maybe my junior high friend that got away!) Kris Somerville

  5. Congratulations on your journey Jessica. Having a mom who has the courage and determination to live her dreams is an incalculable blessing to your children. Few kids have that example in their lives. Neither do many have parents who practice the virtue of loving patience. You’re a great mom.

  6. This is so true! You’re your child’s first teacher, and showing them the way to reach their dreams by pursuing your own dreams is a great idea.

    As for discipline, I am not a saint either. I don’t always like my son’s behavior, but I always love him as a person. Instead of making him the object of rejection, I remind myself that it’s his behavior that I don’t like, not him. It keeps me from modeling behavior that I don’t like in myself (yelling)!

    • Yes, I always tell him I don’t like the behavior. And–it’s a FIVE YEAR OLD’s behavior. He’s not a peer. Sometime I think I expect too much and my initial instinct is to be annoyed (because, let’s face it, 5-yr-olds can be annoying); I have to catch myself and remember he’s not fully formed yet. He’s testing things out.

  7. I know EXACTLY what you mean. I want my kids to be proud of me and not just because I can whistle loud as hell at my kids’ sports events. I want them to be proud that I set out to become a successful writer and author and accomplished my goal. But just showing them my perseverance may be the most important lesson of all.

    I’m cheering for you, Jess! *whistling loud as Hell*

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