Kris Woll interviews Bethany Meyer, a contributing writer in This is Childhood, a book and journal about the first years of childhood:
What was your inspiration for writing this piece? Have you written about this age/stage?
My third son was 6 when I participated in this series. The natural pace through which he navigates life is slower and more thoughtful than that of his brothers. Observing him at age 6 required that I slow my pace—so fast in comparison—to match his. Once I did that, I fell in love with him all over again.
I’ve written about this age before, but it’s most endearing to me after watching how it transformed my third son. Precious is the word that comes to mind to describe it best. Six is precious, and that was lost on me until the third time around.
What is it about age 6 you liked the most? The least?
A 6-year-old begins taking little risks, and he can do that because he feels loved and secure at home and at school. It’s a privilege to witness that shift occur in my kids.
That sense of independence is also a sobering reminder that childhood is finite and our kid’s time with us is short. Each step our child takes away from us also brings a brand new set of parenting worries. The worrying sometimes eclipses our ability to enjoy and celebrate our child’s breakthroughs.
What do you wish you knew before you had a 6-year-old, or what advice do you wish you could tell your former self about mothering at that particular stage?
When my oldest son was 6 years old, he had not one, not two, but three younger brothers! If I could go back, I’d tell myself to walk away from the dishes, skip the shower, lay the baby down, pull that 6-year-old boy onto my lap and envelope him in my arms. Six-years-old is a mix of big and little. But mostly it’s little.
What other age/stage in this collection (which explores 1-10) is one you would like to explore more—or do you often find yourself turning to—in your writing?
Details are more accessible to me if I write a story almost immediately after it has happened. If I wait—a week, a month, a year—to write it down, it collides with the other thoughts in my head like “have I bought toothpaste yet?” and “where did I put the soccer cleats?” Knowing this, I find myself writing about whatever ages my kids happen to be at the time.
There are few things funnier than 4-year-old boys. They are an endless supply of material for a humor writer. I miss having one in the house, and I do love to read about that age.
How do writing and mothering fit together for you? How has that fit over time?
My life is so kid-centric right now that my children are typically my muses. It’s strange being the only female in a house with five males. I look for the funny in that because it helps me keep things that are beyond my control in perspective.
Writing about mothering has been a natural fit for me. Being a Mom is so integral to my story, but it doesn’t singularly define me. Raising children turned me into a Mother. Putting my stories about raising children down on paper has turned me into a writer. I wonder whether my subjects will be different a few decades from now? I’ll just have to keep writing to find out.
What is your advice to other mother writers?
Write, write, write. Ours is a genre that seems saturated, but the voices are as unique as the experiences. Writing, for me, is therapeutic, and when another parent connects with something I’ve written, it validates both of us. Parenting is an enormous responsibility. So many of us are leading parallel lives, but if we don’t talk about what we’re experiencing, the weight of it can feel isolating. Yours could be just the anecdote that someone needs to read to get her through a particularly challenging time.
What do you hope readers will take with them from your piece? From this collection?
For readers whose children have passed these ages and stages, I hope they nod their heads and smile as they read along. Maybe reading an essay will unearth a tender memory nearly forgotten.
For readers who are just beginning their parenting journey, I hope this collection excites them about how robust the first decade of childhood will be!
Read Bethany’s “This is Six” essay in This is Childhood, a book about the first years of childhood and motherhood.