It is hard, as I have said before, to reconcile the chaos of life with little children to the presence of those children themselves. Who strewed those toys, who smeared that food, who reorganised those cupboards, who broke that bowl? Surely not the children, who sit on the floor and are charming. By whom was I run ragged in the night so that I fortified my day hours with caffeine? Surely not the baby, who is napping peacefully at noon.
The narrative question, then, is how to tell stories about the children in a way that reconciles the love with the chaos but does not diminish either. And the aesthetic question for me is how to do this in a way that doesn’t bury itself in received tropes, in the modes of online motherhood that populate message boards with ciphers and acronyms. There is only a need to tell “the truth” about parenthood because the established modes of expression answer to norms of social conservation and cohesion. These work against truth-telling to the extent that exploring the difficulties becomes confessional. At the same time, the delight, the heart’s long joy in children, becomes yet another neo-liberal mode of choice and thus private, personal, not for public consumption. Loss and melancholy then fall into the trope of consequence, and people whose stories inhere here: the infertile, the bereaved, are excluded.
On writing about your family
July 7, 2013 by blue milk