As the mother of four grown children, I’ve seen enough eye rolls and dismissive headshakes to last me a lifetime. They usually occurred when one or more of the little darlings caused me to repeat one of my favorite sayings. You know the type I mean, the ones they automatically tune out as soon as your lips begin to move.
Recently I was blessed to have three of them visiting at the same time and long after I had gone to bed they stayed up to talk and catch up with one another. I listened briefly to the chatter and felt blessed to have them under my roof again. Eventually the conversation turned to shared experiences and the horrors of growing up with someone as uncool as me for their mother.
It comes as no surprise to me that they feel that way. I never wanted to be cool Mom; I just wanted to be survivor Mom. The one that lives through four bouts of teenage years and lives to tell about it.
I made it and so did they but they still can’t get over some of the lame things I used to tell them. Nor have they quite forgiven me for the nicknames I saddled them with but that is another story altogether and if I ever decide to write about that I’ll have to change my name and enter the witness protection program. Here is a list of their most hated Mom-isms and how they just might apply to all of us today.
1. You are responsible for your own actions.
No matter how many times they said, “Johnny made me,” these poor kids had to pay the consequences if they made a poor choice. They also got the rewards when they chose well but they seem to forget about that part when whispering about Mom’s deadly deeds in the middle of the night.
Today they are mature successful adults with a strong sense of personal responsibility. A trait that reading the daily news makes me fear might be going out of style.
If you walk away from a writers conference or a meeting or critique feeling as if you didn’t get what you wanted or needed from the group, stop and ask yourself some questions.
“What did I bring to that discussion?”
Was it an open mind, eager to learn and grow or was it a preconceived idea that I only wanted to hear validated?
If a problem exists, did I come with a suggested resolution or merely a criticism?
If an editor suggested a change in my manuscript, did I try to see his or her point of view or did I walk away convinced that my way is the only way?
Who is ultimately responsible for my success or failure?
2. Work it out among yourselves.
After refereeing I don’t know how many bouts of ‘he said, she said, he started it, no she did,’ I decided that unless blood or broken bones were involved, they didn’t need me to settle their arguments, and frankly, I just didn’t want to hear it anymore.
Eventually they did learn to come to some sort of compromise or they simply exhausted themselves into not caring anymore. Either way the fight was over and no one could accuse me of playing favorites.
They tell me that they especially hated that one. Sometimes one or the other was clearly in the wrong and I was denying the injured party comfort and righteous indignation by refusing to step in.
While I was guilty of that, I was also forcing them to at least try to see the person’s point of view, making them learn to negotiate and compromise. Teaching them that sometimes life is not fair and you don’t always win just because you are right. Skills they all use everyday in their jobs, in their personal relationships and, yes, you guessed it, even with their own children.
Always try to approach a problem with resolution as the goal. It doesn’t matter who was right or wrong if at the end of the discussion the problem is still there.
If you know without a doubt that your dialogue should read, “he said” and the editor prefers “he nodded, he huffed, or he gasped” you just might win by losing this argument. Once your book is on the bestseller list that discussion may not seem as important as it once did anyway.
3. Use your resources.
Instead of rushing off to the store each time one of them decided they wanted something I used my resource, poverty, to encourage them to use their resource, imagination, to build, re-design or forget about the latest toy on TV. They still talk about treasures they created over the years and the adventures they had building forts in the yard.
We all have special skills and talents with which we are born and eventually we find that they will carry us only so far toward our final goal. Eventually we have to admit we need some help along the way. This is where it pays to use all the tools legally available. This is true if you are scrounging materials to build a tree house, running for president, or writing a book. When you share your skills and knowledge, when you network, when you are willing to learn from those who have gone before you, you will grow and eventually succeed.
Writers groups offer a treasure trove of resources. Published authors are available to teach us, stretch us, inspire us and challenge us. Face to face and online meetings are offered to answer questions, form critique groups, put you in touch with agents/editors, and listen to your stories. Other writers share your joys, help you over the rejections and band together in groups large enough that our particular brand of insanity appears normal.
Need to know how describe a nose? Contact your writers group. Frantic to find out who penned that inspirational quote you need for your article? Send an e-mail to a writer friend. Can’t wait to announce your first sale? Contact someone in your writers group and see just how fast word gets out and the congratulations come pouring in. I encourage you to find a writers chat group and experience it yourself; it’s all there for the taking and the sharing.
We make choices all day, every day, and I hope that every one of you choose to use the resources writers have available as we continue to hone our talents, accepting that we are ultimately responsible for crafting the story of our own success.
If a conflict should arise, please listen to what others have to say and be kind in your criticism and if after all else fails, you still have a problem?
Work it out among yourselves. My kids will happily tell you how it’s done.
***For information on how to order Storee Wryter Gets a Dog – Bobbi’s first book for young readers ages 8 -12, click on the title.
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