Kris Woll interviews Nina Badzin, a contributing writer in This is Childhood, a book and journal about the first years of childhood:
When Lindsey Mead and Allison Slater Tate put together the This is Childhood series and asked us to think about ages we’d like to represent, I quickly volunteered to cover age 3. I had not written much about that age before, but I felt I owed it something of a tribute since my oldest reaching the age of 3 was the first time I wasn’t terrified about doing everything wrong. My son and I could actually have conversations by then so that instead of worrying about what was wrong when he cried for seemingly no reason, I could simply ask him. Now he’s 9 and tells me often what’s on his mind, which doesn’t mean I always like what I hear.
What is it about age 3 you liked the most? The least?
I liked the new level of communication and ability. I disliked how long it took to do everything “by myself,” which has been the demand of every one of my children at that stage.
What do you wish you knew before you had a 3-year-old, or what advice do you wish you could tell your former self about mothering at that particular stage?
My youngest child, Nate, is now two and a half so I’m back in that place where 3 is on the horizon. Nate’s in the stage where tantrums are a regular occurrence when he doesn’t get his way, which is often spurred by his inability to explain what he really wants. I’m glad I’ve had the chance to remember how much changes in the year between 3 and 4. I’ve heard many say they find 3 the hardest, most frustrating year. For me, that award has always gone to age 2 and I’m glad to be halfway through it at this point. I’m looking forward to seeing what a more talkative, patient (hopefully), and diaper-free Nate is like.
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?
I tend to write more about my older two kids (Sam, 9) and (Rebecca, 7). They’re so different from each other and from me. I love watching them become individuals with interests, skills, friendships, and even a spiritual life that’s all their own.
How do writing and mothering fit together for you? How has that fit over time?
I think writing about my kids helps me enjoy motherhood in a different way. It’s made me reflective about how and why I do the things I do. The frustrating bits (and there are plenty) make for good writing fodder, which is hard to remember in the moment, but I tend to appreciate that fact later.
What is your advice to other mother writers?
The best change I’ve made is working on the essays with deadlines first thing in the morning before the kids are awake. Then, if I have good pockets of time later in the day, I consider it free time to start new work or dip into short stories that are sitting in a file. I also use the extra time, when I have it, to play with the social media piece, which is fun for me, but time consuming. The whole writing process has become less harried now that I’m scheduling time to get the important work done first.
What do you hope readers will take with them from your piece? From this collection?
I hope the collection encourages parents to jot down notes about their own quickly growing and changing children so they can capture a kid’s essence while the memories are still fresh.
Read Nina’s “This is Three” essay in This is Childhood, a book and journal about the first years of childhood.