Negotiating Family Matters as a Writer when Family Matters

There’s writing about family attitudes and there’s families’ attitudes about writing. The former is often captured in brief memoirs, forms the foundation of humorous prose, and enables the construction of poignant poetry. The latter is often characterized by work interruptions, forms the foundation of collaborative projects, and catalyzes episodes of critical and creative thinking.
Per my authoring manuscripts about family attitudes, raising my children elevated me. Parenting emboldened me to take risks and to accept consequences that I would not have otherwise embraced. Whereas it is true that watching adolescents grow can count in league with watching changes in the development of grass (bamboo excluded), guarding youths’ well-being makes for extraordinary assemblages of words.
Those decades, which I spent focused on my youngsters, enhanced my personal knowledge of not only lunch buckets, bus tickets, and seasonal clothing sales, but also of compassion, forgiveness, and sharing, especially as  those traits were found in my under five foot set and, subsequently, in my masterpieces about them.


As an adult, I appreciate that a Mommy Writer [could] only be brought into being when a woman of words [was] no longer able to contain her frustration concerning: exponentially breeding laundry, counters left unwiped after more than two consecutive meals, homework which loom[ed], but never nest[ed], and fresh, grimy tracks that meander[ed] through the family’s salon, the likes of which [were] attributable either to hedgehogs gone gonzo with marshmallow fluff or to teenagers who forgot to wipe their feet. 1
Fortunately, as my boys and girls grew from tots to young adults, it was revealed that neither our family’s pets were permanently harmed nor our living room furniture was left irreparably broken. What’s more, I was able to capture my small hooligans’ goings-on in books including: Oblivious to the Obvious: Wishfully Mindful Parenting, Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things, and Mothers Ought to Utter only Niceties.

All the more so, given those happy ends, my incessant, maternal desire to solve local poverty and global war mongering notwithstanding, my mommy super powers proved more finite than my ideals. As much as I wanted to code answers to humankind’s dilemmas in verse, or to disclose them in scintillating stories, instead, I found myself crafting bits about “spiky friends, dangerous lizards, and marauding aliens … [At least my writing from that period contained] imagination, boldness in defying conventions, and intangible muses [as well as] a good measure of weirdness.” 2 In short, my kids gave me plenty about which to write and I dipped into that treasury regularly.
On balance, while I was busy encapsulating my family members’ “irregular and reprehensible” conduct, they were busy emoting about my “irregular and reprehensible” compositions. Only one of my progenies ever enjoyed a friend capable of empathizing with our state of affairs – that friend’s mom, too, analyzed and made professional use of her children’s behaviors – she was, after all, the chair of a major university’s communications department.
It was not so much that my dear ones were irked when I didn’t portray them as noble beasts or that they wanted me to leave my keyboard to play ball or to bake cookies with them as it was that they simply didn’t want my verbal portraits of them to be broadcast. Parents, in general, are embarrassing to teens, but parents who report, to the world (!) about their kids or about themselves are that much more unsettling.

[T]hey rant[ed] loudly, with familial impunity, if I insist[ed] on offering up what look[ed] to be, per their measurement, a goofy text, or something otherwise viewed as embarrassing, such as works concerning menopause or narratives about invisible hedgehogs. To wit, my writing necessarily [got] scrutinized by my local critical thinkers after it ha[d] milled through my process, but long before it reache[d] the desk of persons whose names [could] be found on mastheads.3 
Not only oughtn’t I have written about my brood, but, as far as they were concerned, I also oughtn’t to have written anything less than vanilla or anything that was in some other manner faintly serviceable, i.e. distantly likely to be printed.

To wit, some of my efforts, purposefully, had nothing to do with those blessed selves. Some of my books were actually for and about grown-ups, including: A Grand Sociology Lesson, Cryptids, and Fluid & Crystallized. Those volumes had as much to do with my homebirthed darlings as did Bitcoins or biturongs. Even so, my descendants claimed that their childhoods were corrupted by my wordsmithing.
Note: one has become a high school English teacher, who has sights on evolving into an English Professor. Another will soon sit for her bar exam. A third is involved in a career necessitating fashioning lots of government documents. A fourth has transformed into a keen teller of fabulations. Regardless of those youngins’ earlier protests about my public use of words, all of them have entered realms in which a mastery of rhetoric is essential.
Moreover, I noticed that interest of theirs, in words, a short time ago that I was "unintentionally raising the next generation of writers. It’s not so much that I’m careless with my parenting. In truth, I monitor the number of minutes each child has access to the Internet, I count the portions of bioflavonoid-rich food each son or daughter consumes, and, if lice should attack our family, I assign the dubious privilege of finding [the] nits to my children’s father." 4 Five years ago, as now, despite my attempts to dissuade them, my kids insisted on engaging in wordplay.
Indeed, one of my shoots has realized the most extreme impact of growing up under the auspices of a Mommy Writer; she coauthors texts with me. Our latest collaboration is a novel, My Neighbor Judy, which is being serialized in The Tachlis Magazine. My nippers’ views on writing notwithstanding, to a one, in various ways and to various degrees, all of them emulated me.
In sum, parenting provides writers with amble grist. Concurrently, writing about that grist provides families with abundant material for backing up discordant points of view. Because my kids’ deeds 

sound[ed] clarion tones in my gut and sen[t] me, if not to the brink of guardedness, then to the loo, repeatedly, I [took] to my keyboard. In view of the fact that my mighty mites poke[d] me to bring up a response, they ought not to [have] complain[ed] when I distribute[d] one. Whereas I ascribe[d] no nefarious intent to my children’s grandstanding I likewise ascribe[d] no evil motives to my using their stuff as the essence of my essays, of my stories, and of my poems.5
There’s much to be said per writing about family attitudes and per family attitudes toward writing. Here, and elsewhere, I’ve been, and plan to continue to be, happy to share such observations.

1. KJ Hannah Greenberg. “Under the Influence of Children: Offspring’s Impact on the Creative Process.” Parenting Express. Dec. 2010. Rpt. KJ Hannah Greenberg. Tosh: Select Trash and Bosh of Creative Writing. Crooked Cat Books, 2017. 178-182.
2. KJ Hannah Greenberg. “The Necessity of Wonkiness in Writing.” The Artist Unleashed. Jan 2, 2017. Retrieved Dec. 24, 2017.
2. KJ Hannah Greenberg. “Writing, Not Making Moonshine.” Guest Post. Jun. 28, 2013. Rpt. KJ Hannah Greenberg. Word Citizen: Uncommon Thoughts on Writing, Motherhood, and Jerusalem. Tailwinds Press, 2015. 3-4.
3. KJ Hannah Greenberg. “Unintentionally Raising the Next Generation of Writers.” The Legendary. Feb 20. 2011. Rpt. KJ Hannah Greenberg. Word Citizen: Uncommon Thoughts on Writing, Motherhood, and Jerusalem. Tailwinds Press, 2015. 157-160.
4. KJ Hannah Greenberg. “Evolving Maternal Identity.” Kindred. Mar. 2012. Rpt. KJ Hannah Greenberg. Word Citizen: Uncommon Thoughts on Writing, Motherhood, and Jerusalem. Tailwinds Press, 2015. 154-156.