Writing with Children

I am not a parent. I don’t want to be a parent. My body has made it perfectly clear it doesn’t want to be a parent either. Yet I love kids. I like having them around. They are so full of interesting inspiration and full on creativity that it’s like magic. For me, that makes being an Aunt almost perfect.


Recently, I found myself with three nieces and a nephew in my house for the afternoon. I’d borrowed them to help with a yard work project that took all of half an hour, but my brother couldn’t pick them up until after dinner. So, for half a day, I became a parent. I know, it’s not much, but it gave me the flavor of all the parent/writers out there.


With nothing specific to do, and temperatures outside in the uncomfortably hot range, we let the kids play inside. At our house that means drawing or computer games. Not being full time parents means that we don’t have a lot of toys just laying around. Nephew took over the Xbox. The two older nieces each got a laptop with kid friendly games on them. The youngest niece chose the stack of scratch paper and the color set we keep because this isn’t the first time that we’ve had them over and we learned.


For a whole five minutes everyone was happy. Sweetie and I retreated to our computers as well and got to work on the projects we thought we weren’t going to get to that day. Then the youngest niece came to show me her latest ballet moves. I clapped appropriately. That brought the other nieces in to see what was happening. They, not willing to be out done by their younger sister also showed me their dance moves. All clapping and appreciating done (for the moment) I asked them how their games were going. They scattered.


Ten minutes later, youngest was back with a beautiful picture of something she had drawn just for me. I oohed as one should when presented with a 3 year olds work and put it lovingly on my desk. But that’s not where pictures go. So off to the kitchen for a proper refrigerator display. Then a suggestion that “Uncle Sweetie” would be jealous sent her back to the table. I dove back into project – which was formatting a story for publication.


I got another 10 minutes before Sweetie was calling down from the kitchen asking where we had put the extra magnets. It went on like that all afternoon. There were problems with the games to be solved, snacks to be eaten, more paper needed. They asked us early and often when would dinner be, what were we doing for dinner, could they go to Cold Stone Creamery for dessert? And then my favorite question came up: Can we spend the night here? The answer was an obvious (to us adults) “no”, but that required a lot more explanation and a promise to find a time when they could to end that interruption.


Now, you might think that with all of that going on that my hopes of actually working on my formatting would have been dashed. Not so. The truth is, I not only got the story formatted (for the first time completely on my own), but I also uploaded it to Nook, Kindle and Kobo. I even managed to get a little time to play my own games (guilty pleasures, oh yes). I am not the most patient person in the world, yet I was able to see enough progress between interruptions that I never felt like I was being denied time to get my work done. And as the evidence shows, I wasn’t. I might have been able to get more done if the children hadn’t been here. In fact, I’m sure I would have been faster if they hadn’t been here. Still that doesn’t mean that I have to live without children to get the writing done.


I tell you this story because I see so many parent/writers talking about how they wait for nap time, or they get up early or stay up late while the kids are sleeping to do their writing. I’m not knocking those techniques for getting uninterrupted time which would be oh so precious. However, if that’s all you do, you are missing some great writing opportunities. Not the least of which is demonstrating a work ethic to the kids. Among all those questions I faced in that one afternoon, my favorites were when they were asking me about what I was doing. I could tell them, show them, what it looks like to get something done. Since I was still learning the formatting process at the time, I also demonstrated how one goes about doing something they aren’t yet skilled at.


The best part of that day came right at the end. My brother came to get them, and they all ran to him exclaiming that Aunt Becca had published a book today. My triumph was their excitement, right before all the really important stuff like the “gallery tour” of the refrigerator and how Nephew was allowed to order off the adult menu at Perkins and that they had managed to get all the yard work done in just 30 minutes.


I am not a parent. I am an Aunt. I like it that way.

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