When Everyone Wins

I teach creative writing at an education co-op my teenagers attend. I don’t love teaching. I do it because it means I don’t have to pay my kids’ tuition. But it’s offered more benefits than free classes, it turns out.

I hate colored pencils.

I’ve leveled up in my writing this year. Part of that is likely due to better discipline in my daily writing habits and partly to attending what I call the School of Revision. But I’ve come to believe it’s also due to grading the creative writing assignments I’ve given my students. I’ve had to explain to them how to make their stories better, how to write with more nuance and subtlety, how not to resort to stereotypes and cliches. I’ve had to figure how to say things so they make sense to kids who haven’t read endless craft books like I have. It’s helped me pay better attention to my own writing weaknesses and capitalize on my strengths.

I don’t know why this comes as a surprise–because it’s not like I haven’t heard that teaching is learning. Maybe it’s because I assume things are true for other people but might not be true for me. Whatever. I don’t care. I’m just feeling humbled and thankful that I grew in my craft while I was busy helping others. Win/win.

Trying Hard and Letting Go

Something I’ve been mulling over: how do I work at something that takes up a lot of my time and mental energy, something I care a lot about, but not put ultimate hope in the results of my work?

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You think I’m talking about writing, but I’m talking about raising kids. My oldest is 17, now, and my baby is 14. So much of what I’ve prioritized in the last 17 years is stuff that can’t be measured. The trips to museums, the long talks and I’m sorry’s, the tears over math worksheets, the orchestra concerts and travel, have they made a difference in my kids’ lives?

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My kids are almost grown. They’re intellectually curious and kind. They’re beginning to know their place in in the world.

Still. How many of those traits would they have developed without focused effort on my part? Has what I worked for in the last 17 years mattered?

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Also, how do I let my kids fail (which is so important) and not feel it as my failure? How do I let go of the results of years of caring?

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Maybe this is one reason I write–because the joys and sorrows it brings, my various successes and failures, belong only to me.

 

*photos 1-3 taken by my oldest son