Operating Instructions

I am finally getting around to reading this book by Anne Lamott, which is a journal of her son's first year, and I am totally entranced. She captures the ecstasy and agony of motherhood so perfectly, even though her situation was fairly different from mine. I have to make myself put the book down so I can savor her entries, and I'm already thinking about reading it again. Maybe even right away. Which is fairly unheard of, for me. This may be a keeper; one I'll buy as soon as I've returned this copy to the library.

I've been journaling about the boy off and on, more off than on, which often makes me disappointed in myself. I know there's no "supposed to" with journals, but I can't help feeling that mine won't be what I want, years from now. And, oddly enough, I find that I self-censor what I write (which Lamott decidedly does not) - maybe because I do intend to read it again, or pass it on to the kid, and am already constructing the memories I want and sweeping others under that proverbial rug? Not willing to admit the really hard stuff, or at least glossing over the truth with a throwaway line, a joke about being tired, or papa earning points to do fun things? Contrast that to Lamott, who readily admits to calling her son a little shit and understanding child abuse (though not ever hurting him). Most of my entries end up in the second person, so it seems I am addressing the boy's future self, though I'm not sure that was initially my intent. Who knows if he would ever even want to read this stuff? It's so hard to imagine what he'll be like as he grows, though I talk to him about it all the time. We've agreed that he won't play football, though most other forms of activity are fair game. And he has to be gentle with the hearts he's sure to break. [aside: I can't quite call him "my son," sort of like I couldn't quite say "my husband" for a while. It's just too weird.] Maybe I need a second secret journal, with a heart-shaped lock and key, like my childhood diaries. Of course, those keys were always the same as the ones for cheap luggage locks, so really anyone could have opened them, but it felt more private. That didn't stop me from hiding it, nor did it stop my older brother from finding it and reading it. Oh, the laughter (his), the tears (mine), one more battle in the sibling wars. Actually, we got along quite well, but you just can't escape some things. [another aside: do you think all those gruff TSA folks spend their breaks reading little girls' diaries?]

I don't know if I would have appreciated this book before starting this whole kid adventure, but I highly recommend it. Certainly for anyone in the throes of babyhood now, but not only. It is brilliant, beautiful, funny, painful, and most of all, true.

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