"How's this sound for the first line of my book report?" Em asks, reading aloud. "A Dog's Life is a heartwarming story about a dog named Squirrel and her adventures through her life as a stray and a companion."
"Nice," I say. "You didn't copy that off the back of the book, though, did you?"
"No!" Em exclaims, affronted. "I don't even have it in front of me! Why would you think that?"
"It's actually a good thing," I see, feeling badly that I brought it up at all. "See, it sounds like the sort of thing they might have written on the back of the book. You just have a very mature style of writing. I just hope that your teacher realizes that that's all you when you hand it in, that's all."
The truth is, Em writes the way she speaks--with a voice that is, often, mature beyond its just-turned-10 years. And sometimes just a little...quirky. I love reading her stories and her essays for her fifth grade class, but sometimes I think I ought to say something to her teacher, to ask him not to focus on her horrendous spelling and her unusual grammar, and to ask him not to question her ability to have thought of and written what she writes. (You know, the way I did in the example above. Because I'm an idiot mother--or, rather, just a plain idiot, whose editor side beats the snot out of her mom side every time she reads something her kid hands to her--and I want the teacher to be better and more nurturing than I.) I think sometimes that I should do this because I feel like maybe this is where her real gifts lie (and no, I don't mean that as in "my child is the smartest and best writer EVAH" but as in "there are ways in which she is special, like most kids; this is probably primary among them"). And, more importantly, I feel like those gifts are fragile. And if she's told to spend too much time focusing on whether she spelled "organisms" correctly or whether the sentence she's written is a fragment or not, the spirit of her writing will shrivel up and die. And I don't want that to happen. For her, but also for me. Because, best I can figure it, reading a story that my child wrote engenders in me a sense of pride that will probably only be beaten by watching her raise my grandchildren. Indeed, for a writer--like myself, like my kid--creating a work of fiction (or even nonfiction, for that matter) is very much like creating new life.
Really, though. It's not her teacher I need to speak with on this topic. It's me, and that damned bully of an internal editor. The fact that I just figured that out in the process of writing this blog entry pretty much reinforces everything I just said above about the importance of writing. It also pretty much defines the word irony.