Friday, August 13, 2010

A Parent and a Kid

Today the Pens welcome Veronica Wolff, who is generous to be giving away a copy of her newest book, Devil's Highlander, to one lucky commenter!

I confess, when the fine Fatales asked if I’d blog and mentioned Parents as a potential topic, I made a little perplexed frowny face. I could opine at length on, oh, food, TV, sex, men. But parents? What have I got to say about parents?

But then I started thinking, just a little, and realized just how much I actually have been thinking about the topic.

For starters, there’s the whole concept behind my latest book: my Clan MacAlpin series follows a family of orphans (what else?!) in seventeenth century post-war Scotland. (Like how I got that bit of publicity out? Clever, huh?) I won’t explore why I chose to take the poor kids’ parents out of the equation—Adrienne already covered the cruel whimsy of authors yesterday, so ‘nuff said there.

But you could argue it’s impossible to think about life—fictional or otherwise—without contemplating parents. It always, eventually, comes up. Whether you’ve lost your parents, are a parent yourself, are estranged from a parent, or, like me, are lucky enough to still have both of them around.

It’s been a very explicit topic for me these past few weeks. I mean, consider my current summertime location. Though I live in San Francisco, the kids and I are on an extended visit…to my parents.

Boom…there’s a minefield of topics right there. Coming home again. When kids become parents. And the dreaded Becoming our parents. Gack.

And seriously. My perplexed frowny face? The lady doth protest too much. Because I am a parent, and honestly, even though my oldest was born nine years ago, it still sometimes wigs me out a bit. I worry I might never get used to the concept that I’m the one in charge. That I’m the one establishing boundaries, and setting examples, and answering questions about God and boys and moral fiber and stuff.

But for now it’s nice to be “home.” Like, at my parents’ home. The home where I can find high school paraphernalia rolling around in old dresser drawers. Where, if I wanted, I could wear jammies all day, because I don’t know the neighbors, or have a carpool to drive, or a dog to walk.

Where, for just a few weeks, I can foist all the hard calls onto someone else. Like, sure we can watch TV till late…we’re at Grandma’s, and it’s her call. Or, we don’t often buy cookies, but Grandma does, so please pass mommy the Oreos, honey.

See where I’m going with this?

So here I am in Florida, with my parents, and I find myself regressing to a different age, one where I sit elbow-to-elbow with my kids, eating Captain Crunch for breakfast (who can resist the lure of the crunchberry?), requesting special mom/grandma-made tuna sandwiches, and watching more TV than is good for any reasonable human.

I miss my husband and can’t wait to get back to my real home, but for now I’m enjoying every minute of being both a parent and a kid again.

Veronica Wolff is an award-winning, bestselling author with a soft spot for kilts and vampires. Not necessarily at the same time. Known for her Scottish time travel series, she's changing gears, launching two new series with the Penguin Group: The Clan MacAlpin Novels, featuring a family of strapping, seventeenth-century Highlanders, and The Watchers, starring a group of vampires and the teenaged girls who train to watch over them.


Juliet Blackwell said...

Hello Veronica -- welcome to the Pens! I love this -- how many of us regress when we go back "home"? For me, it was popsicles -- Mom always had a box in her freezer, and even though I was an adult perfectly capable of buying my own at home, my son and I would visit and go straight to the freezer to see what was waiting for us. Then she would fix us lunch, which we would eat --wait for it -- still in our jammies ;-) I can't wait to be a grandma so I can spoil my grandchild --and son-- rotten!

A.W. McQueen said...

V, I don't know how you do it. Being a mom and a full time writer has to be exhausting so it's good that you have the opportunity to stand back and look at your family in a different way. I don't have children but I imagine that if I did I would feel much like you in the sense that everyone is looking towards me for guidance. I am in awe of those who become parents and still find the time for themselves as well as family.

As you know I lost my own wonderful mother in March and having that void in my life makes me wonder what kind of parent would I have been? I know for certain that all the lessons my mother taught me would surely be passed down to my progeny. As I write my own stories of fiction I realized that my mom and dad are all over the place in the lessons that my characters will learn; the love that they give and their passion for life.

I suppose in my own way I do have children for my characters are like my babies in which I can spread my own personal guidance. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story.

Laura said...

Wonderful post and thoughts on parenthood! It brought to mind my trips to my own grandparents houses years ago. My cousins and I could always do a few things there we couldn't do in our own home, like wiggle our toes in the mud in the dark cool area between my grandmother's house and the neighbors (remember when houses were built so close you could look into your neighbor's kitchen while doing your own dishes?)

Thank you, Veronica.

Veronica Wolff said...

I recognize that email address, bttrfly. ;) Thanks for stopping by and saying hi and sharing such a lovely post.

And Juliet, your comment made me giggle...because you *know* my mom has those same popsicles (and fudgsicles too, ohmygoodnessyes). Does it always come down to food, I wonder? LOL!

Veronica Wolff said...

Oh, totally, Laura! For me, it was poking through my grandmother's drawers. I was always so entranced by the thick smell of her pancake makeup (remember those old pots of pancake foundation?!), or her old books, or my mom's old photos (excavating the pictures of my mom's high school boyfriends--I was always so scandalized!)

Deborah said...

Hi Veronica! Wow You really brought back some memories for me....Hanging out at grandma's for a vacation with the kids... I am at a different part of my life now. One of my 'kids' just left my nest to start her own life. So I am coping with the reverse of parenting and trying to let go. It's difficult...just listening and waiting sometimes for her to ask me what I think. I naturally want to save her from pitfalls and mistakes still...but I know she needs to do things on her own...Dont we all?

I guess all the stages of parenthood are challenging in their own right ...and whether we are just starting out or finishing up or just helping out our own moms and dads...that circle of life just continues on.

Sophie Littlefield said...

One thing I love about visiting my dad is that he is willing to go to ridiculous lengths to please me and my kids, and we let him. I'm terrible about accepting indulgence from most people, but if my dad wants to get up early to get bread from our favorite bakery, or drive all day to a favorite lake, then I am happy to let him...

How terrific that your kids and you got a long, relaxed vacation with the family. I'm not so naive as to think it was all pleasant - mix up family for more than ten minutes and sparks are going to fly somewhere - but it's a real gift, one they'll never forget.

But we'll be glad to have you back home!

Rachael Herron said...

Why do sandwiches made by mom always taste so much better? I lost my mother 2 years ago, and I loved this post. It's good to be with parents. :)

Veronica Wolff said...

Hi Sophie! Hi Deborah! Sophie, fresh-baked bread seems the loveliest of indulgences! :)

And Deborah, I can imagine just how difficult that is. Watching them spread their wings and leave the nest has got to be one of the hardest things to do. I try to remind myself (when I'm nagging nagging nagging my little ones to brush teeth/pick up clothes/put away toys/throw away trash) that I'll wake up tomorrow and they'll be off to college...

Veronica Wolff said...

Oh Rachael, that brought a tear to my eye. So sorry about your mom. I count my blessings that I still have mine to make that tuna *just* the right way.

PoCoKat said...

There is nothing like being spoiled by your mother. I wish that my mom was here with me whenever I am ill. Nobody can look after you better. Have a wonderful visit Veronica...and yes there is no place like home...always the best part of a vacation...going home.

Sarah Hoss said...

I am glad that you are having a great time at your parent's house. You are right, there is nothing like going home. My parent's live in the same town as I do and in the house they bought when I was 5. Two years ago they were talking about selling and I was sad. The house and my parents go together I think; a packaged pair.

My parents are elderly. I was a late baby but I have always said, "In the beginning the parents take care of the kids and in the end the kids take care of the parents." My mom had back surgery on Monday and I go over to help her out. I have always gone and done things for them. I feel it's my turn. I hope that makes sence.I don't do it because they are elderly, I do it because I love them and want things to be easier for them.

Good post V! Your kids are lucky to have you!

Veronica Wolff said...

Thanks, PoCoKat! I agree, I could be on a tropical island, and I'll always love that plane flight home. :)

And Sarah, best wishes for your mother's speedy recovery. How wonderful to be able to visit the same house you grew up in. I was a Navy brat, moving as frequently as every two years, and I've never experienced that deep sense of hometown/homecoming. (Though, oddly, I always get a pang of nostalgia when I visit a military base--LOL!)

toni in florida said...

I have a 20 year old and a 14 year old - and my 20 year old made me a grandmother (I know!) this January - which makes that whole parent topic even more fraught, you know?

As for the turning-into-your-parents thing, my older sister once said that, every once in a while, she would hear herself say something particularly parental, then she'd have to go look in the mirror to make sure she hadn't turned into our mom. Too funny!

Sarah Hoss said...

Veronica, Thank you for the well wishes. She is revcovering nicely.

As for being a militray brat, I think in a way that sounds very exciting. To travel as such and see the things you have seen would be very neat. It has helped make you the out going girl we all love!! I imagine it would have been hard as a child though. I am living in the town I was born in and it is a small community. Everyone knows everyone!

A.W. McQueen said...

Thanks V, (of course it's me lizzie LOL) I miss my mom so much. It's only been a few months. I suspect in time it will ease. I do remember she made the best sandwiches. Any kind. She would toast the bread perfectly, cut it on the quarter. school lunches at home (boy did I miss them when I went to high school) I could smell the hamburgers in the over right now. And peanut butter crackers with the peanut butter spread thin just the way I liked it.

Enjoy your trip with the family and make those same memories you have with your own mom and dad with your kids. :-)