What do you think?
At what age, for what purpose, and in what form will you share the secrets of your past with your children?
Author Dani Shapiro addressed this issue in an essay published in mid-July by The New York Times. She wrote this about Slow Motion, a memoir she penned before she married and started a family:
“Before I became a mother, I spent many years writing with no thought that some day I might have a child… I’ve often wondered whether I would have written that memoir — one of seven books to my name, but the only one I would bodily throw myself in front of my son to prevent him from reading — if the timing had been different, if the idea for it had taken root in me only after he had been born. It’s a book I’m proud of, and the artist in me would like to think that I would have written it no matter what. But the mother in me isn’t so sure. I might have stopped myself, for fear of what he might think some day. Certainly, it would have been a very different book, bearing the marks of time, maturity, experience. After all, one can’t write with abandon if one is worrying about the consequences. And to have children is to always, always worry about the consequences.”
It’s an issue few writer-mamas think about until faced with a dilemma. On the flip side, is a writer compromising her craft if she meets a family member’s request to not write about a specific experience?
Check out these essays from the LM Archives for more thoughts on the subject:
Exposure by Asha Dornfest: “Before I became a mother, there wasn’t a single dark story in me. It’s ironic that only now, when there are potential casualties, do the stories flow freely, unbidden, and beg to be told.”
I Am a Secret Novelist by Marian Berges: “I’m still trying to keep my secret, but I’m not going to be able to much longer. We can’t really hide from our children.”
I wish you’d quit writing about me by Cindy La Ferle: “But it didn’t occur to me, at first, that personal writing made public could be a tad self-indulgent if you got too careless — or that what you might consider a “cute” family anecdote could mean nothing less than lunchroom hell to your kid.”
What do YOU think?
1 reply on “What do you think?”
Just last week I was discussing this exact issue with a childhood friend. We hadn’t seen each other in many years; while reminiscing about some of our adolescent adventures, she vehemently asserted that she would NEVER tell her children about some of the things she’d gotten into. At the time, I wholeheartedly agreed, having seen the effect that one revelation of my past caused in my teenaged sons.
On further reflection though, I thought to myself, that all the life I’ve experienced, everything I learned the hard way, or on the low road, contributed to the person that I am, just as my yesterday impacts my today.
Nevertheless, not being a celebrity on the world’s stage, I will probably destroy most of my journals, which I have kept for forty years.