Kris Woll interviews Kristen Levithan, 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 other things about this age/stage?
My daughter is my third child, and I fear I haven’t been as diligent noting her milestones as I was with my oldest. In writing this essay, I hoped to create for her and myself a portrait in words of who she was at this age. Doing so inspired me to write about her more often; hopefully when she grows up she’ll have dozens of pages to read alongside the hundreds of photos I’ve taken.
What is it about age 2 you liked the most? The least?
With all three of my kids, I’ve loved the exuberance of 2—the running everywhere with purpose (even if that purpose is as simple as picking up a block (“A Bwock!”) from another room), the awestruck gaping at such things as bubbles, airplanes, and squirrels in trees—not to mention the explosion of language. My least favorite part of 2 is the sometimes endless, not necessarily rational, battles that accompany that language.
What do you wish you knew before you had a 2-year-old, or what advice do you wish you could tell your former self about mothering at that particular stage?
I spent a fair amount of time mourning the loss of the baby stage when my kids turned from tiny, helpless, infants to wandering, chattering toddlers. If I had to do it all over again, I would tell myself to enjoy each stage as much as the one that came before it, each age brings its own kind of wonder. (Then again, I doubt I would have believed it. It’s been my experience that the only way to “know” a stage of parenting is to go through it yourself.)
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?
My kids are now 6, 4, and 3 so I suppose it’s not surprising that I’m most intrigued by what others have to say about their experiences parenting kids the ages of my own. I find this increasingly tricky as my kids get older and I become more reticent writing about experiences that they themselves will remember. I’m interested to see how other parent-writers navigate that challenge.
How do writing and mothering fit together for you? How has that fit changed over time?
I came to writing through motherhood. I started blogging when my second son was a baby and started writing professionally a year later. The two have been interwoven for me ever since.
What is your advice to other mother writers?
Write down as much as you can: the details, the emotions, the hilarious quotes. You might not have time to process it now, but every snippet, no matter how brief or how tangential, counts. It’s the raw material of the story of your motherhood.
What do you hope readers will take with them from your piece? From this collection?
In this day of Instagram and 140 character communications, I hope that readers will see real value in the act of slowing down to record the details of a moment in a child’s life. I hope that the collection inspires other parents to tell the story of who their own children were at each age. I’m a writer so I’m probably biased, but I’ve never been persuaded that a picture is worth a thousand words. I think a thousand words can be worth quite a lot indeed.
Read Kristen’s “This is Two” essay in This is Childhood, a book about the first years of childhood, and motherhood.