In Writing

Some mothers remind their kids to take a sweater or eat their vegetables. Some mothers email their kids links to articles about lack of reproductive rights for women in Central America. You can guess which kind I am.

I am a voracious consumer of information. In the hour between when I drop off my kids at school and my CrossFit workout, I sit in a cafe. Sometimes I write. But mostly I read. Everything. News. Opinion. History. Self help fluff like “Do These 5 Things to be Happy Every Day.” (Pro tip: apparently gratitude journals make you ecstatic).

Feeling like I know things makes me happy. You know what makes me even happier? Feeling like I’m making other people know things. So off the links start flying. That interview with the screenwriter to my brother. That motivational writing wisdom to a writer buddy. That bit of humor to my mom.

Perhaps my most put-upon email recipients are my darling children. With them, the passing of information takes on parental zeal. I find things they must know on a daily basis. Tips for living. Nutritional information. Outrages (usually against women around the world, but also against the planet, victims of gun violence and plain old common sense) of which they simply must be aware to be decent humans.

It was this morning as I caught myself emailing my unsuspecting high school freshman son an article that it struck me that maybe I needed to chill the heck out. The article was entitled “You Asked: Is It Bad to Be Inside All Day?” (Great piece. Click on the link to check it out. Cliffs Notes: yes). My motives were completely self-serving; I think he spends too much time inside. Here I was bolstering my parental opinion with evidence from Time magazine. Here’s the thing, though: although the piece’s title begins with “You Asked,” the truth is he had not, in fact, asked. I wanted to tell. There’s a difference.

I let my mind wander to the many effective habits I’ve created in my life. Exercise (newly rediscovered in earnest, to be honest). Clean Paleo eating (sporadic), disciplined writing (for now). How many of those have I developed because my mom told me to? Exactly zero. They’ve all been hard-won, a gradual realization that they helped me meet my larger goals. And when I do the “right” thing, I never do it perfectly or without fail. I am flawed. But I churn out data like I’m expecting my kids to be powerhouses of all the right things to know and do.

The overwhelming need to instruct belies an underlying doubt: have I done all I can to prepare them for the world? Do they know they need sunshine? Lean protein? To care about the fact that women can’t drive in Saudi Arabia? Only time will tell. For now, it’s time for this mom to trust that what they need to know they can Google all on their own.

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