One of my favorite metaphors for both parenting and writing is gardening and I bumped into another one this week: the rule of thumb for perennial plants, “Sleep, Leap, Creep.”
In the first year, a perennial will focus on its foundation, anchoring its roots. The next year, the plant comes out of a dormant winter and starts to grow. Then in the third year, it takes off and comes into its full form.
That might be the best (generous) description of both a teenager and trying to do creative work that I’ve seen. That or Patchett’s I am a compost heap. Or Eno’s beautiful things grow out of sh*t. Good reminders that any of it takes time and it is always messy.
During a rough patch, that is becoming a bit of a predictable pattern in our quarantine weeks these days, Ally miserably told us she feels like she is ‘living in the shadows.’
How do you respond to that as a parent? Later that same day, Ce had a meltdown over a piano piece that was clearly not about the piano piece.
We are all going to need so much therapy when this is over.
The toughest thing about being a parent many times is that you can’t just throw up your hands at intractable, difficult issues. You need to face them and I didn’t think my usual trick of deflecting the kids by telling them it was really spicy would work. We decided to try empowerment instead.
We all find ourselves struggling in the same mess together. But each of us has agency too, even, or perhaps especially, during adversity. Our job as citizens is to seize our own agency and help others realize their own. In this way, we can help others and ourselves. So if you feel like your living in the shadows find your own way out in whatever way you can.
After this stump speech, she promptly went upstairs and took an hour-long nap and was back to dancing in the kitchen that afternoon so perhaps I overshot the mark? She might have just been tired.
Maybe I should have stuck with the spicy line.