by Kristina Wright
I write a lot about my children. They are three and one and my life has been pretty much consumed by them the past few years. That's the way it is, when you have little kids. But yeah, I write a lot about these babies of mine. I think there are people who are sick to death of reading about my babies and seeing pictures of them on Facebook. I have this year-long project, you see, to take a picture every day of the two of them together. It started as a lark, to counter the repeated comment that you never take as many pictures of the second baby as you do of the first. This year, I can say I took just as many pictures of both of them. Maybe a few more of the second baby, actually.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I write a lot about my children. For one, I didn't get around to having them until I was in my forties and that's kind of an anomaly (or so I've been told-- it seems to be more common in big cities). Not only did I have one baby, I had two. That also seems to be unusual-- most women in their forties have just the one kid. Unless they're taking fertility drugs, and then sometimes they end up with twins. Over forty = one pregnancy, regardless of number of offspring. So I've been told.
So what's my obsession with writing about my kids? Well, first off, I wasn't aware it was an obsession until a total (anonymous) stranger commented a couple of weeks ago about how I seemed to be dragging my feet on an anthology and while I had the excuse of toddlers, deadlines and health issues, I really need to get my act together and meet my professional obligations. (Okay, I'm paraphrasing, but that's how it read to me.) And my first thought was, "What the hell do you know about my day-to-day life?" And, of course, my own response was, "Quite a lot, actually. You write about your personal life, after all."
And so I do. I write a lot about my kids, in part, because I truly never expected to have any. To be honest, I didn't want kids from a very young age until maybe around age thirty. Even then, I was always rather ambivalent about it. Another thing I've written about, maybe not as much as my kids, is the fact that I've been married practically forever. Twenty-two years in October. I don't write quite as much about my husband and our marriage as I do about my children, maybe because he's been a part of my life for, well, literally half my life, while the kids are kind of the new, shiny toys in my life. But I have written quite a bit about my naval officer husband, our crazy whirlwind courtship, his numerous deployments, our military moves and our life in general-- it's a good life, there's a lot of good stuff to write about.
So there's my family. My two little boys, my amazing husband and... yeah, that's it. You see, I've written, here at least, about my childhood. It was, in a word, dysfunctional. I've written about my difficult relationship with my mother and the decade long estrangement before her death. I've written a little about mybfather (who is actually my stepfather, though he did legally adopt me), with whom I have no relationship, and I've written some about my birth father, whom I've never met and whose name I didn't know until five years ago. I can't remember if I've written much about my only sibling (only sibling I know of, at least), my brother, with whom I have had no relationship in over two decades-- and I'm fine with that. I have no grandparents to write about. My maternal grandfather died before I was born, my maternal grandmother died when I was two. I was never close to my father's (stepfather's) parents, his father died when I was around twelve, his mother never much took to me since I wasn't really her biological granddaughter and she and my mother hated each other. I don't even know if she's still alive.
All of my mother's family lives/lived in Missouri. It was a large family-- twelve children-- but with the exception of a couple of cousins I used to write to when I was a kid and maybe still exchange Christmas cards with if I have time, I have no relationship with them. My father's (stepfather's) family lived close to us in Florida and I did see my three cousins several times a year, but we were never particularly close either. Two of them, the boys, have died in the past few years and I found out long after the fact. There is only my one girl cousin and her family left-- and we rarely keep in touch, either. If not for Facebook, I'd probably know nothing at all about them.
That's my family. All of it. I spent my childhood immersed in books and dreaming about being sent away to boarding school and I have spent most of my adult life trying to make a family out of my friends. You know what I mean. "Friends are the family you choose" and all of that. And I do have a few very close, very precious friends. Are they family? In all the ways that matter, yes. To me, they are more my family than the brother I was raised with. But to them-- well, I think to most of my close friends, I'm a bit of a sorry case. Not quite an orphan, but certainly lacking the one thing that most of them seem to have: a big, happy, supportive, close family. (And if not all of them have all of those qualities, they certainly have three out of four.) So when the holidays role around, they are with their families, where they belong. And I am always a bit wistful and melancholy that I didn't grow up with the kind of family so many of my friends have.
My husband was deployed for our first baby's first Christmas-- and I was alone with a newborn for nearly five months. I did it all, and I did it alone for the first eight weeks. Then I hired a friend I had known for several years to be my part-time babysitter and I had a little help. But baby and me, we spent Christmas 2009 alone, just the two of us. He was exactly three weeks old, so he wasn't much company. It was okay-- I wasn't much company either. But we were together, me and the only family I had in the state. And that was okay. It was good. I had family. Yes, I could've gone somewhere, accepted an invitation to some friend's house to join their family celebration. But I was three weeks postpartum in winter and not keen on taking my tbaby out of the house. Okay, that's not the real reason. I didn't want to feel more alone than I already did. So I stayed home with my newborn and Christmas came and went.
The holidays have never been a particularly happy time in my life. Even with a terrific husband, this is a time of memories and melancholy for me. There are childhood Christmases I sort of remember that weren't horrible-- but none of them were truly happy. In a family like mine, well, there was always something to be sad about. I have had more than two dozen happier Christmases since then, but I have always felt like something was missing. I have always been grateful for this wonderful life I have made for myself, mostly because I know it could've gone in a completely different direction if I had been more a product of nurture than nature. Then again, perhaps I am a product of how I was raised-- I am determined that I will be happier than I was as a child. And I am determined my children will not have sad, melancholy memories trailing after them through life.
And so, yes, I write a lot about my kids. I had no real family to speak of, no magical, special home-and-hearth place where I felt safe and loved and supported. I didn't have a mother who tucked me into bed when I was sick and fed me chicken soup. My mother was of the, "If you're really sick, you won't be hungry and if you're hungry, you're well enough to come to the table" mindset. I was never a Daddy's girl and I'm not even sure my father (stepfather) remembers my birthday and he often misspelled my name (he married my mother when I was nine months old-- you'd think he'd remember that, at least). My brother and I were not best friends from birth, we were each other's nemesis in a hostile household, with him hating me for getting good grades and being the good child and me hating him because he got away with everything and was the "real" child. He turned out as you would expect the child of these parents who raised us to turn out. I am, as I have been told many times, an anomaly. Like everything else about me.
I write about my kids, my husband, this family of mine because I made it. I am a writer and I create characters and families every day, but here in my real life, I created the family I never had. I chose the man who would give me the love and nurturing I never got as a child, and he has given me all of that and more than I ever dreamed possible for going on twenty-three years. And, when I finally realized it was now or never and I needed to decide whether I wanted to have kids before Mother Nature decided it for me, I grew two children inside of me. I created my family. It's small, just the four of us, but it's double the size it was three years ago. And before that, when it was just two of us, I still had more of a sense of belonging in any house I lived with my husband than I ever did in the house where I grew up with people I didn't know or understand. I made my family. I love my friends, I am grateful to share holidays with people who are good and kind and funny and loving, happy that my kids have "aunts" and "uncles" and "cousins" and I will always call them part of my family. But now, like some miracle, I have this family of four that I feel as if I conjured from my dreams. We are happy, this family of mine. I spent a lot of years thinking such a thing wasn't even possible for me.
So yeah, that's why I write so much about my children.