For each issue of Literary Mama, Literary Reflections shares a writing prompt, inviting our readers to respond. Our editors provide feedback on the responses we receive, and we post our favorites on the blog. This month’s writing prompt is inspired by Meadoe Hora’s essay Beautiful Words and Dave Patterson’s essay Rage Against the Melancholia.
Both Hora and Patterson write that parenthood has made them “soft.” As a teenager, Hora devoured books by the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, and other literary writers. She tells us that her childhood reading list resembled a class syllabus. Determined to raise her sons in the same tradition, she quickly discovers the stories she has chosen to share are thick with peril:
I realized then that motherhood had made me soft. In every story, there is struggle, and these books reminded me that innocence is the first thing to be sacrificed to the real world. I had a perfect baby, who would one day have to make his way through an imperfect world. It was terrifying.
Patterson confesses his softness in the form of an immense sadness that washes over him every Sunday night when he has put his children to bed:
The memories of what happened that weekend with my two children flood my mind, and I let myself cry. I’ve spent most of my life suppressing tears when they’ve come to me, but that’s all over. I give in: I weep. I see my three-year-old son learning how to pump his legs on a swing, or my one-year-old daughter raising herself up and scouting down the length of the couch. I know that I’ll never get those moments back.
Hora and Patterson reveal that their newly acquired parental softness has changed their approach to reading and writing respectively. Hora comes to embrace kid-favorite series like Captain Underpants not for its beautiful words but for the renewed interest (and confidence) it gives her children in reading and writing. Patterson discovers that his softness gives him insight into the parental figures in his novel, helping him see that their imperfect efforts are actually rooted in trying to do what is right. As a result, the characters in his revised version are more “lush with sympathy and multidimensional contradictions.”
How has parenting made you soft? Has that softness affected how you approach reading or writing?
Read Hora’s and Patterson’s essays and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by July 8, 2018, for feedback from our editors. Email it to LMreflections (at) literarymama (dot) com and note “June Prompt” in your subject line. Please do not attach the essay but paste the response in the body of the email.