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I just got a giant box of back issues of ParentLife in the mail. Something had been messed up with their contributor copy system, so it’d be more than a year since I got any physical copies. I flipped through each issue, glancing at my own articles, remembering how and when I wrote them.
The first time I was published in ParentLife it was almost a scandal. I still worked at LifeWay, although I was on the brink of leaving. My friend Jodi asked me if I would write something for them – I think it was about being a working mom. And I wrote it. And then my manager came in and told me they wouldn’t allow internal freelancing. He made me feel like I was about 5 years old. This was my dream, period. It was finally coming to fruition. And I felt it go splat on the carpet. I’m pretty sure I cried heaving sobs once he left.
After he found out that I’d actually already written the article, before he even knew or spoke to me, he let them publish it. I would have done it without the payment, though. For me, it was all about the byline. The actual being-in-print. Seeing my words sitting there in a magazine and knowing people might actually read them.
When I first started working from home and freelancing for the magazines, I scanned each article that I wrote, so I would be sure to have a digital copy in case I lost the magazine. For my “portfolio.” I laugh a little bit now at this 2009 Jessie.
I’ll admit that now I glance at the articles. I make sure they haven’t edited me so much that I no longer sound like myself. (This has never happened, but you never know.) I am glad for the paychecks but it’s longer glamorous to have my name in type. It just is. I love to write, and I am so thankful that someone pays me to do so. But it’s not the same level of excitement it once was.
Parenting feels the same way, for me. When we had just one child, everything was a big stinking deal. Decorating. Doing the right thing when she was sick or eating or sleeping. Every moment was new, and it was exciting. I remember asking my mom, when Libbie started grasping at toys, if it was as fun when your subsequent children did the same thing. Would I still be enthralled? She looked doubtful.
In some ways, I am. I am still tipsy with love when each child learns to totter around, talk, give kisses. It’s not less special just because I have experienced it three times. But in some ways, it is less of a high. Those long days they talk about can turn everything into monotony. Yes, Joshua narrated everything I brought home from the grocery store. David did a 48-piece puzzle … again. Libbie read me a chapter book. Can I go to bed now?
Joshua will be two in a little more than a month. (Let’s not talk about that, OK? It makes me cry.) For Libbie’s second birthday, we had a big old Dr. Seuss-themed party in our rental home’s backyard. For David’s second, we had some friends, mostly adults, come over and ate appetizers and failed to take a single picture. And for Joshua’s second birthday? Ummm … maybe some cake at home? He’s only going to be TWO, right? It’s not like he’ll remember!
I’d like to remember to get down and experience some of that wonder every day. This involves closing the laptop and ignoring the dishes. (Because I don’t totally ignore the dishes anyway …) It means I actually get down on a child’s level and listen to him or her talk. I wonder at the magnificence of their tiny voices, of David’s precise coloring skills, of Joshua’s curly blonde head, of Libbie’s sensitive heart as she talks about interactions with her classmates. I don’t try to multitask. I just am, there, with them.
“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.” – Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn