Driving along, I was thinking of houses. An odd house for rent that happens to be built on the same plan as mine. The house of one of the girls in my Girl Scout Junior troop, whose artist mother had lavished her vision on every surface. It was beautiful, and hard to sell when they moved, but they had a realtor who told them, “The right person will arrive; we simply need to be patient.”
The dreams my friend C mulls for a little sculpting house, where she can chip away at work uninterrupted. Dreams that will yield good, flourishing results when they’re ready—and I’m confident they will be fleshed out and executed. Someday. But not in the near term.
There’s not enough room on her attention’s stove for that pot to even get to simmering.
Something I struggle with even in my rear-view mirror is just how much creative energy rearing children can take up. Or, to try to frame it more clearly, I still grieve the work I thought I would make when the girls were in middle- and high-school. But I didn’t have the undivided attention—the clear space in my mind—the room of my own in my head.
The girls were urgent and important. My work? Merely important.
I suppose if one’s children are even-keeled souls, one stands a better chance at carving out one’s work from the quotidian bustle that is 21st-century middle-class parenting. One wouldn’t have a ‘listening process,’ as we systems administrators called them, a little thread of something just waiting for today’s shoe to drop. They eat up processor time, those little processes. They seem so small, and one of them really isn’t a burden, but after a while… . And if they’re a little broken, and spawn replicas of themselves? That spawn more replicas? There’s not enough memory in a computer to keep working with that going on.
A has been out of high school for three years now, and only recently has my heart quit leaping to my mouth when my phone plays her ringtone. C’s daughter, likewise, is far from even-keeled, and as her friend I know roughly how much room that child takes up in C’s head.
Not to begrudge it: it’s simply a truth of parenting our particular children in the way she and I both value. But I can regret something I freely chose…and would choose again.
These girls are not my creations. I’m clear on my boundaries, thank you, and as a modern feminist parent I have always been careful to nurture my self—in order to be certain I can cleanly nurture theirs. My work is something different, something separate.
How is it, then, that rearing children and creating art pull out of the exact. same. well?
How is it, that after all my careful planning and attention, I end up consumed by my kids?