Sunday, July 24, 2011

Words Soaring Overhead

Sometimes I am so entrenched in mothering-mode, I forget that I’m a writer.

At yet another flag-rugby practice, my daughter chatted happily to a teammate. The coach called out familiar instructions: “Stay in your lane. Move forward. Pass backwards!” At six feet plus, he towered above the children and his words soared over their heads.

I sympathized with the coach. Fifteen five-year-olds moved in thirty directions as he tried to line them up. Why couldn’t they listen?

As a mother, I was mildly bored and glad that I was not in charge. The children were not my problem. Then I remembered: my motherly boredom translated to a writing opportunity. I watched the scene from my child’s perspective.

My daughter pointed at a newly acquired, glittery turtle tattoo on her arm. A teammate reached out to touch it. The teammate told a joke while jumping in place, making my daughter’s smile wide enough to display the gap of her missing bottom teeth.

“Line up!” her coach shouted to everyone. “Stay in your lane!”

Her new friend wasn’t talking to everyone. He was talking to her.

She was listening. My daughter followed her bouncing friend, turning her back toward the coach. Her giggle made me want to hear her friend’s commentary.

Of course children listen – to what’s important to them. What was more important than a new friend? Certainly not lanes.

My grown-up brain forgets, focusing on important things like instilling approved behavior. As a mother, I often lose my objectivity. As an author, I can’t do that.

It is I who must listen, to instill an authentic voice and a child’s perspective in my work. If I stay tuned in to what’s important, maybe readers will stay tuned in to my writing. Maybe even my children will listen to me…

Do you ever tune out? How do you stay tuned in to the world of children?

(p.s. Though it required the coach’s hand on her shoulder, she did eventually line up, and zig-zagged after the ball. Lanes are hard to learn!)


  1. I can't even tell you how much I steal from my kids. I just made a small change to my WIP to include a story I thought was so funny I laughed for days. I haven't reread that part yet, so I really hope it works.

  2. I find it hard to stay tuned out when kids are around - their (usually loud) energy forces you to pay attention!

    Or maybe it's just the kids I know?