The challenges of family life are often reflected in the writing of children. My own kids do this quite often, and I always learn something new about them when I read through their school writing assignments. I argued with my daughter at the beginning of the school year, when as part of a class assignment she wanted to pick as her family slogan, "My family is like a roller coaster. We have our ups and downs." We hadn't met the teacher yet and I didn't want my daughter to give her the wrong (or right) impression of us. At least not yet. My no-censorship ideals eventually kicked in and I let it go. I guess that is now our official family slogan.
A couple of years ago, I found myself unexpectedly immersed inside my daughter's head while reading her writing. I was standing in the middle of a shopping mall during a local school-wide book fair, thumbing through a book of poetry that my daughter, at age nine, had written. She wrote about the death of our beloved family dog, something that had occurred only two months earlier. She wrote about how much she missed her. The poem was beautiful. And sad. I just stood there in the middle of the pre-holiday hustle and bustle of our local mall, with focused shoppers passing me by, holding her book and bawling my eyes out. Tika really was a great dog. But the tears were not for the dog so much as for my daughter. How could I not have noticed the depth of her grief?
This past winter, my kids were swept up in the whirlwind and chaos of having a disabled grandparent take over our lives. There was no way to prepare them ,or protect them, from the stress of the situation. During open house at her school last month, my husband and I stood mesmerized by a poem she had tacked to the wall. We were stunned at first, then our irrepressible lack of maturity took over and we start laughing. Only those who have lived it can fully appreciate her take on the Sick Grandma Blues.