My review of the wonderful Welcome to Your New Life by Anna Goldsworthy (author of Piano Lessons) can be found in this month’s edition of the Australian Book Review. It’s a lovely book, worth reading.
Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category
I’m delighted to have an article in the latest Westerly magazine, which focuses on Writing and Ethics. My article ‘The Air that Falls’ is an exploration of writing about family, drawing on my own experiences and analysing Aftermath, a memoir by Rachel Cusk. Some of the press coverage of Aftermath was savage and this was one reason I wanted to write about the book. If she can write and publish a book about a marriage breakdown, can she really love her children? asked reviewers.
Also in this issue of Westerly are non-fiction pieces by Kim Scott, Alice Pung, Frank Moorhouse, Benjamin Law and Rozanna Lilley, as well as lots of new poetry and some great fiction. Here is how Moorhouse starts his essay:
“I tell new writers that the literary writer has three ever-ongoing negotiations in their life by which they gain the privilege of a literary vocation, that is, the privilege to write what one wants to write, in a way he or she wishes to write, and to spend most of one’s time doing it at one’s own pace.”
The first negotiation he speaks of is the negotiation with one’s family and friends – essentially a negotiation about resources and ethics. This, he says, is the most difficult negotiation. And this, I suspect, is why this volume (57:2) of Westerly will interest so many writers and readers.
When you have a child with a disability, it is easy to fear the future. I was thinking about this because Ben will be starting high school next year.
See my guest blog on how to handle this at Rhonda’s SillyMummy site.
This week, Ben is experiencing a new problem at school.
“There’s this girl in year 4, mum, and she follows me around at lunch time and asks me questions,” he says.
“Oh, are the questions rude or something?” I ask because of the worried look on his face.
“No. But she keeps following me. It makes me feel funny.”
“Maybe she likes you, Ben,” I suggest.
He frowns: “Mum, she’s in year 4. I’m in year 7.”
It turns out that not only is he uncomfortable that a girl is following him around, he also feels it is totally inappropriate for a girl three years his junior to be friendly with him, especially as she is “quite short for her age”. Of course, I don’t point out that he is immature for his age (common with autistic boys) and short himself, but I do suggest that he can do with all the friends he can get. After all, he spends many lunch breaks on his own while the other year 7 boys play sport and the year 7 girls hang around in little groups.
“Why don’t you just play with her?” I suggest.
“I don’t know if that’s allowed,” he says.
If there was a prize for the most law-abiding kid in school, this boy would win hands down. (He’d also win child most likely to remember to ring the school siren on time, not to mention most anxious child of the year.) I encourage him to loosen up a bit and try to make a new friend. Then a frightening thought strikes him.
“Mum, you don’t think she like-likes me, do you?”
“It’s not a tragedy if a girl fancies you,” I say. “You don’t have to do anything. Just talk and play on the monkey bars or something.” He looks unconvinced.
“I don’t know if today is going to be a good day,” he mutters as we get into the car to drive to school.
I have to laugh. I never thought I’d be counselling my son on how to remain cheerful when a girl seems to like him!
I have just come back from a weekend in Denmark (WA) where I gave two author talks and ran a one day workshop. I’ve visited Denmark often and always enjoyed my time there, but this was particularly special.
Around 70 people attended the talks and 20 participated in the workshop, surely a sign that Denmark and environs are extraordinarily bookish places! People listened with such respect and warmth, asked interesting questions and gave wonderfully encouraging feedback.
The writers at the workshop ranged from a mother of toddlers to an 84 year old, all producing fantastic ideas and prose. It was inspiring to be among such enthusiastic and engaged writers and readers.
There were moments of surprise and humour, too, courtesy of an unexpected visitor to Tea House Books. And, of course, there was time to sample delicious local wine and food.
Thousands of people do it. I’ve written a book about it. But still, I’m not sure how one becomes a mother.
I don’t think it happens the moment you give birth or adopt a child. Biologically, yes, but in every other way it takes time to learn to mother. Does it happen during that first year of milky sleep deprivation, of joy and amazement, of confused helplessness in the face of pure dependency? Or does it happen more slowly, over the years, a gradual stretching and turning inside out of the self, a transformation both profound and subtle? It is so common, perhaps, that we hardly notice it and the process of reconfiguration remains mysterious.
Certainly, all those books about how to be a good mother, the parenting courses, the advice websites – none of these approach the actuality of becoming a mother. They simply tell us how society thinks we should act as mothers and provide a place for sharing tips on how to manage children. They’re useful, but every woman must learn her own way to become a mother, just as every child will develop into their own individuated self.
Some people would argue I’m expressing a very romantic view of mothering here, describing it as mysterious and transformative. But in fact, I think that it is all the “how to” books that are based on motherhood as an ideal. I am more interested in the real experience of mothering as a complex, ongoing encounter with the self, an encounter of pain as well as pleasure, but an encounter that is always a gift.