My Little Roo,
I am writing this in the midst of a creative slump. Writer’s Block. The old foe returns. What started as my “best NaNo yet!” has fizzled out, and the spark is gone. Instead of writing, I do laundry. I do homework. I read. I do anything but write, because when I sit down in front of an empty page, my mind seems to go “nope. Nap time.”
Here I am, now almost 10,000 words behind NaNoWriMo’s target, and the empty page is winning. I think just write! Just write something! and my brain says but I don’t wanna. I have to make my brain wanna. I’m too type-A to accept failure. So maybe I need to jump-start my system. Maybe if I can’t write fiction, I can write about the things I know. I can write about you, and your words.
Every day at the allocated time (see: type-A), I pick you up from daycare and you tell me about your day. I’ll ask you, “did you do some painting today? Did you go outside today? Did you play with your friends today?” and you’ll tell me yes; yes; yes. I ask you who your friends are. You tell me “Jojo” and “Brook”. I’ll try to catch you out. I’ll ask you “did you go swimming today?” and if you say “no swim”, I know you’re understanding the questions (nine times out of ten, you tell me there was no swimming). I get you home and sit you down with a movie while I quickly prepare you a snack. You watch your movie while I cook dinner, and we eat around the dining room table. You put your hands together before you eat, and then rub your tummy, which is what you think I’m doing when I cross myself. Some days you might say an ‘amen’. Usually, I say “can we say grace?” and you say “graaaace” with a smile that tells me you know exactly what you’re doing.
Words are coming to you so easily now. You’re starting to use sentences, which, to me, is way up there above the first step, the first tooth, the first everything else. No parent was ever so proud. Most of your sentences revolve around the dog, which is just so typical you. “Doggie has a nap.” “Silly dog!” “Dog is so naughty.” “Go to bed, dog.” “Doggie has a wee-wee.” I do wish you wouldn’t shout “doggie has a poo!” at the top of your lungs when the poor thing would probably appreciate your discretion, but that is the way with two-year-olds, I guess. You babble constantly, from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep. When you wake up in the mornings, you have a few seconds of being dazed and confused, and then you are wide awake (don’t tell me you’re going to be one of those Morning People?), babbling. You’re telling me something, I know it. “Ammanmah change-a-Roo. Mama! Mama! Dogissssonaughty. Simininer downstairs. Glabba borr breakfast downstairs.” You do the same thing on Skype. You snatch the phone from my hand and your expression becomes very serious, as you tell your grandparents all about “cookie balloon Publix”, which seems to be what you always want to tell them about. “I had a cookie and a balloon at Publix” becomes “cooookeeballoon pussicks” among all the babbling. I don’t know what you’re saying, but you certainly do; and you’re going to make yourself heard.
Keep doing that. Keep making yourself heard; and never silence yourself.
I want you to love words. I want you to grow up reading; to move from Dick King-Smith to Roald Dahl; to J.K. Rowling and Malorie Blackman; all the way through to Dickens and Austen and Shakespeare. I want you to squeal with glee at the mention of Hamlet; I want you to have a favourite sonnet; I want you to read until well past your bedtime, hiding under the covers with a little light. I want you to perfect the art of quickly stashing away a book and feigning sleep (I’ll tell you a secret: you’ll never fool me, but I’ll also never be mad).
I want you to know the power of words, and I want you to choose them carefully. Your words, darling girl, can form angry internet comments or prize-winning literature; medical journals or research papers; complaint letters or a Supreme Court dissent. Your words can change the world.
One day, we will love words together. One day you will tell me about books that you’re reading and enjoying; or you will tell me about something you read on the news; one day, I hope and I dream and I pray, we will write together. For now, I read to you; and I hope that you associate words with “Mummy cuddle” and happiness, and with feeling warm and safe and loved.
One day, beautiful Roo, you will have your own stories to tell.
Until then, keep babbling. Keep playing with your words.