Thursday, June 08, 2006

young & dumb & 'fat' & boycrazy

"I came to the conclusion that I wasn't smart until I was thirty." That's from Madness's current post, and is an observation made as a result of reading her own old journals. Ah, me too! Me too! A few weeks ago I put up some silliness from my college writing journals and some readers responded that they can't bear to read their old journals -- well, me either -- those were "writing" journals filled with exercises, daily writing, poetry. NOT my whiney personal journals that seemed to be concerned with a) how fat I was (I was not), and b) boys. How vapid and silly was I? Very. But I thought I was quite the serious young woman. That's the funny part of it. I thought I was smart. I got good grades. I had a good vocabulary. I was worldly. I grew up in Europe, ooh la la. Didn't that make me sophisticated? Ha.

I wish I could rewrite the journals of young me and doing so, rewrite young me. I mean, not really, because I'm very happy with who and where I am now and I know it's that wending game-board trail of malarkey that brought me to this particular space, so I wouldn't actually back up and change anything even if I could. I'd be afraid things would arrange themselves differently and I might end up married to the wrong person, living in the wrong house, with the wrong dogs farting in their sleep! But I do wish I had been more like a character in a book.

I read young adult novels. Do you? I recommend them. There are incredibly fine books being written for young people. If you haven't seriously perused the YA section since you yourself were "y," you should. Things have changed since I was a teenager. Books are gritty now, about serious issues facing kids, and anything goes. (there is also "junior chic lit" which makes me shudder, it's SO inappropriate!) Well, I wish I had been like a character in a book, perhaps a bit offbeat and wrapped up in my own world, publishing underground literary journals in highschool and sneaking out in the middle of the night to plaster the school with stickers I had printed up with odd sayings on them. I wish I had played the ukulele to strangers on their birthdays or caused an explosion in the chemistry lab while discovering some heretofore unknown principle of... er... um... magnesium? (I don't really know what that is. I never ever took chemistry.) Instead, I was trying to make my bangs stand up straight like everyone else in Orange County in 1988. I had a crush on the quarterback from afar, like everybody else. I went to stupid loud parties I didn't enjoy, and pretended not to know my mohawked brother when I ran into him and his punk friends around town. College was better, but I could wish it was better-better. I mainly wish I hadn't cared about a) being fat, and b) boys so much. I might have gotten more done.

So what can we do about that when we grow up and find ourselves becoming less dumb at last? I admit to feeling some shame about how shallow I was, in a way feeling like that girl wasn't really "me." I don't want to disown young dumb me, not really.
I do have a bit of a fear of trying to "write" my children when I have them, though. Will I try to turn them into characters in books as they grow up? Try to make them more interesting than I was? Disdain them for being as shallow as I was? Urge them to take up the ukulele and publish a poetry journal? What's that quote? (Alexandra - help?) About the parent's unlived life being such a powerful force on the child? I can see it. My parents didn't do that to us, but I fear I might. I'll meddle. Even last night as Jim was working on an illustration I kept wanting to somehow jump into his brain so he'd do it just how I envisioned it; I'll want to do that with children too, about their lives! Plot them like books, design them like characters. I don't want to be a monster parent! I hope I will be able to control myself. I hope I will keep getting smarter.

11 comments:

deirdre said...

So many questions and insights. I look back at my life and sometimes wish I could make it all go away. I was really stupid at times and made horrible life choices. Body image and men. Ouch. I didn't date until I was much older than the national average and had a lot of learning to catch up on. And I always worried too that I might over-mother, and I know I would have. I'm sorry I never got the chance to find out. My siblings have knocked me back a few (okay, many) paces for mothering or not mothering or just looking like I might mother. I can't imagine what a teenager might say. Holy smokes. I suspect that your creativity and humor will carry you through a lot of parenting. You'll know what to do.

Alexandra S said...

Don't worry about being a monster parent. Any damage that you and Jim inflict will be mitigated by their full-time attendance at my home school I will be running. You're barely going to even see your offspring anyway. My school runs 7 days a week 14 hours a day. Its like a madrassa (Sp?) only instead of religion we study making up false languages (Booschlong), how to make bananabread and wrap it up properly to send overnight to best friends, how to squish yourself down to a size that you can sleep inside a bed inside your favorite Moroccan lantern, and how to grow dahlias the size of apple fritters out the top of your head. (The quote is by Jung and it I think is "The greatest impact on a child is the UNlived life of the parent." I don't think you need to worry about that because you are so fully living and pursuing your true dreams!) p.s. This was such a wonderful post!

Amber said...

You are so silly! You are not going to do that. I am sure you will raise any children you have, letting them be just who they are! You will be too tired to plan too much! LOL. And just think of the adventure it is to watch them become. It will be fine...
:)

Becca said...

For those of us parents who are naturally a little controlling, the gods often give us children that are so darned independent and stubbon that they just refuse to be meddled with and manage to create their own neat selves without any interference from us! I know, cuz I have one! And he and I are happier because of it.

Deb R said...

It doesn't sound to me like you were any more shallow or silly than most teenagers. I think that's just a teenager thing. I adore my teenage nieces and nephews but I know they're going to look back on some of the stuff they're doing now and in the future they'll be saying "what was I thinking??" I know because we all do that.

I bet you'll be a good mom someady.

Colorsonmymind said...

Laini-
you had me giggling so loud.

I too am aware of my desire to have a slightly enriched young adult hood-I was so wild and never had the teachings that come along with playing on a team or learning an instrument.

I am aware of the danger of pushing things on my son because of it.

I guess I find comfort in knowing that as long as I try my best and stay aware of the things I see in myself, I can't be any worse of a parent than my mother was (I hope) and I may want to change a few things-but I too like where I am today, so she couldn't have done too bad right?

M said...

I think you and Jim will be amazing parents- any child who gets to have creative and adventurous parents like you two will be very lucky! And since you're a fabulous writer, I'm sure the kid will live a fabulous life if you are helping them write it. What an interesting image, writing someone else's life, I like it.
I too avoid reading my old journals, I'm not ready to laugh at myself I don't think- they still make me cringe sometimes. Except for my travel journals of course!

paris parfait said...

Laini, I think any child of yours would have a wonderful, amazing childhood -you'd be telling great stories that came from your own imagination; urging them to be creative and bring out their best talents. When one becomes a parent, expectations just go out the window. Everything changes and you'll find an innate ability to know what to do and how to guide/advise (in most situations)them, nurture their self-esteem and help them become the person they're meant to be. Worrying about it beforehand won't help, because seriously, most of the rules won't apply in your own situation - you'll be making it up as you go along, just like life. The fact that you have given it such thought shows how caring you are. I have no doubt you'll be a great parent!

madness rivera said...

I'm figuring -- according to my Smarter By The Year Theory -- we'll be geniuses by our forties. Parenting is breeze for geniuses, right? Yup, we got this.

HoBess said...

You've captured a piece of me here. The other day I did a phone interview for a story. The guy turned out to be someone I knew from college. I actually did shudder! Even though my huband has known me all these years I can't stand the thought of bumping into anyone else from those days (and dEfInItElY not HIGH SCHOOL)! As for your kids, it seems to me you have too much respect for imagination and individuality and plain old fun to try to customize your kids :)

Mardougrrl said...

I am very very aware of the issue of the unlived life of the parent affecting the child...which is one of the reasons, I think, that I am finally working towards fulfilling myself as a writer...so she won't have that dark cloud of "mommy's hidden dream" hanging over her, or heaven forbid, believe that my inability to make it happen is somehow HER fault, when in reality she is my greatest inspiration.

But you, my dear, you are so incredibly creative. Your children will be blessed to see how deeply satisfying an artistic life can be.