Lately, my “writing life” has been unworthy of the adjective. I’m deep into research, which is part of the writing life right now, but mostly I’m trying to grab some summer fun with my daughter.
She’s eight, almost nine, and my invitations are not quite met with rolling eyes, but almost. Eight years old. Shouldn’t she still adore every minute with me and think I’m a beautiful mom-fairy who fixes problems and the world’s best cook and a playmate who whips up a Polly Pocket plot line like none other?
Like S.E. Hinton wrote, That was Then, This is Now.
My daughter has friends. She’s always had friends but now she has friends. They giggle but don’t tell me the joke. They close the door when they go into the playroom. When I call down to see if they want a snack, I get the look that says, what are you doing here?
A few weeks ago, when none of the friends could play, my daughter asked me to play with her. I’m thrilled because we are back. Downstairs we go.
She says, let’s play A Series of Unfortunate Events.
That’s a new one. Usually we come up with our own plots. So what? We are back! And so we begin. I make up a sweet but crazy old lady character. I expect to find the kiddo amazed by my creativity.
She plays along, but I can tell it’s not quite working. I ask, what’s the matter? You can tell me.
Well, she says hesitantly, you don’t play it right. You don’t play it as good as Arabella.
Really, my dear? I write kids lit. I think I’m somewhat familiar with what constitutes “good play.”
I tell her, I’m creative and funny. This is fun. You are having fun young lady! I mean, you’re having fun, aren’t you?
She sighs. I guess it’s just that you haven’t seen the movie as much as we have and so you don’t know how to do it.
I’ve discovered my competition, and they are a gang of eight- and nine-year-olds. Kids I feed. Kids I adore. Kids who bring joy into the house. Apparently they’ve been plotting to steal my daughter.
I know I should be happy that kids like my kid and vice versa. And I am. Kids grow up. They change. They enter the push-pull relationship with mom.
But what if that happens to me as a writer? What if my young readers think, remember when we used to like books by Shelley Tougas? Too bad she doesn’t write it right anymore.
It’s going to happen eventually. Thirty years from now, I won’t understand their love of hologram games or why the hovering auto is cool or how they attend school entirely through the aps on their phones, which are holograms.
But that will be then and this is now. All is not lost. I have skills in phlebotomy. People don’t say you’re not doing it right when you’re about to stab them with a needle.
So I cling to my old job as a phlebotomist. With an ice cream bribe, I might convince the kids to play plasma center.