[Phone photo: A little journal for a new year.]
Waking up on a school morning has never been an easy process for one of my kids. One wakes up at first prompting; the other needs a bullhorn without the bull or horn.
While I remember growing up with a light being flashed on and off and being told to get up, an abrupt waking is a guaranteed recipe for disaster here. Temper. Stomping. Door slamming. Whining. Hiding under blankets. We have and have had it all. Not surprisingly, we are often scrambling to get out the door to make it the mile and a half to school before the final bell. Despite my best efforts, best intentions, and best strategies for changing things, mornings are rarely peaceful or easy. (For perspective: he wakes earlier than school morning time on weekends and days off.)
That all of this happens in a less-than-half-hour timeframe makes it even trickier. And now we have added several things into the morning mix: checking blood sugar, taking long-acting insulin, deciding how much breakfast will be eaten (tough when you are either running late or feeling temperamental!), calculate insulin for food, take short-acting insulin, record everything, and pack the insulin back into the bag for use at school. Other parts for me include calculating every ounce of lunch, determining the insulin requirement, and recording it both in my own records and in the small notebook for the school bag.
So maybe this sounds like a rant about mornings. I know I lament, often (and loudly), that I can’t seem to make our mornings smoother (and that things have to change). We’re still running behind, and sliding down a slippery slope of getting there without being tardy. But, really, this is a segue, a bit of contextualization for our mornings that sets the stage for a single three minutes that stuck with me last week.
Abrupt wakings don’t work.
Recognizing that–and having learned the hard way, repeatedly, that the same approach doesn’t work for every kid–into the flow of morning, I try and make time for gentle wakings, for a moment to cuddle, for laying down next to him and talking. That’s right, just talking. In the darkened room, I talk about something I know is happening that day or something odd or unusual I noticed, or plans for later. I just talk. I talk, easing the way into the day. (And then we rush. And sometimes, still, there is a slammed door.)
Last week, in response to something I said, he gave a half-awake, groggy comeback, and I couldn’t help but laugh. It was sardonic. It was funny. It was “quick.” And that’s what I told him, you’re funny because you’re so quick. “Really?” he asked. I explained a bit about being quick, and about comedians, and then I said, “It doesn’t surprise me though, because you know what I think is inside of you? A writer. Deep down in there, there is a writer.” (It’s a theme we’ve been talking about in recent months.)
There is something about a darkened room, maybe… and the sense of a few unhurried moments even when there really is no time for them…
“You know that little notebook you picked out and that I gave you for New Years? I think you should use that notebook and write something down each day. It doesn’t have to be for drawing. You can write down how you feel. You can write that diabetes sucks. Or you can write that you did or had this that day. You can write down anything, and then you will have a record of these days. Maybe we should do it together each day, each of us spend just a few minutes and write something in our journals.”
These are not new ideas. I have tried to get my kids to journal for years, all the way back from the little stapled cardstock journals I made and took on trips. And they have myriad journals and sketchbooks scattered around the house now. I never give up, although the bigger they get, the more futile my suggestions become.
Likely nothing will come up this, my newest attempt. But there is a writer brewing there. I have seen flashes of it, and I have heard about it from his teacher. Mostly, it is brewing at school. But with so many changes going on for him, I wish he would just fill the journal and let some of it seep into those pages.
There are stories in the moments–for all of us, at every age.
How we approach our stories is where the art comes in. This very same story could have begun a zillion different ways. Placing you in the darkened room would have given you the quiet immediacy of the moment, the sense of being there, and the shared moment where, as a parent, you again realize the enormity of your task. Several days ago, that is where the story was to begin, in the darkened room. Several days ago, I remembered the funny thing he said that started the early morning conversation. Today, I’ve already forgotten. And today, a bit removed from the story by the sheer passing of time, by a week of new (and unrecorded) diabetes firsts, moments, realizations, and discoveries, and by the fact that though I’ve suggested it several times, we have yet to make a note in the journal, the muddle of the mornings and the increasing lateness became the pool from which the little rivulet of creativity, parenting, and philosophy flowed.
For a blog, it is fine.
If I was crafting an essay, the story would start differently.
If I was drawing a graphic novel panel, your stepping stones through the moment would, again, be different.
Our stories are each built, word upon word, but those words can be rearranged, reordered, reconnected, and interwoven. How you put them together determines the tenor, the tone, the flow, and the cast of light and shadow.
The shape and structure of a story, even of a rivulet or fragment or thread, is something I think of always. I don’t necessarily make the right choice when I come to the blog. Instead, I let myself write, free-form. But the writing is a step. As is the structure and organization. These are things I think about, wonder about, and consider. These are the reasons stories are so rarely “done.”
As a graduate student, I often would cut apart my papers so that I could take the paragraphs and move them around, visually and easily, reminding myself where I wanted to relocate things, how I wanted to rearrange.
Where does your story begin?