My daughter lies in the best way possible – in her writing.
For her sixth grade language arts class, she wrote a story based on an experience from her life. She titled the story “Betrayal.” It opens with me telling her we’re going to get a new member of the family.
The early version that I helped correct varied greatly from the final draft that came home in her end-of-the-year mass of papers. When I first saw the final, I thought, Oh, she changed the title. I read on. This copy included a line that read, “My mom wore a fancy skin tight dress that looked more like a swimsuit than a dress.”
She described my car as poop-colored, wrote that it smells like left over fast food and that mysterious stains cover the upholstery.
A flash of embarrassment and anger flickered in my chest. My car doesn’t look like poop! My dresses aren’t that tight, are they? These thoughts quickly gave way to, wow, those are really good details.
The story documents the day I took her to the rescue center to get her a pet cat. You’d think I’d be the good guy in this story. No. Not so much.
She thought at first that we going to adopt a child. She writes of how all she’s ever wanted is a sister in her world of loneliness and step-brothers. When she learns that we’re just getting a cat, she feels “heartbroken and betrayed.” The grand resolution comes when she meets her cat for the first time and deems her perfect in every way.
My reaction upon finishing the story: My daughter sure is lucky she has such a dynamic mom to give her messed-up experiences to write about.
When I view myself from her eyes, I am an extraordinary creature. I move her around the world, sometimes to live, sometimes to visit. Her earliest years she bore witness to my rotating cast of loves. I wear heels and tall boots. I get my hair done. She watches me start companies, win investments in San Francisco, but spend weeks at a time in jogging pants while working on writing projects at home. Sometimes we are wealthy-ish, sometimes we haven’t a single dollar to our names. I’m a great character!
I really did leave it open to interpretation when I told her we were getting a new member of the family. I didn’t think she’d believe me and it would be funny when she learned she was finally going to get a cat. I didn’t anticipate that she’d instantly go all-in on the idea of bringing yet another kid into our cramped apartment. The day that story took place, I learned that my daughter has incredible capacity for love and generosity. She learned that her mean mom thinks it’s funny to trick her sometimes.
I do still think it’s funny. She’s so damn savvy. I have to work really hard to fool her these days.
The lines I’ve written about my own mother horrified her. For the sake of story, I limited the perspective to focus on particular aspects of personality. I chose details that reveal, that make her human, that show impact. These were not the ones she wanted to see recorded. I know a little bit better how that feels.
I do occasionally wear tight dresses. My daughter says they look more like bathing suits. Exaggeration, but oh how it improved the paragraph.
The fact that my daughter is a writer shouldn’t surprise me. Even if she never writes an another story her entire life, she’ll always be a writer. She knows how to carve a page, how to build from nothing an entire world populated with character, emotion and action. How grateful I am to be a part of the world she creates, even if I play the role of wayward mom.