“Ezra, did you wash your hands for dinner yet?” I asked last night.
“Ez, look me in the eye and tell me if you washed your hands… No, look me in the eyes, not the forehead, and tell me if you washed your hands.”
“Oh man. I really wanted to get away with that one.”
Ezra loves to lie. Or more precisely, he loves to see how much untruth he can get away with and what he has to do to sell the story. Which details are too much? How much should he laugh at his own jokes? What kinds of facial expressions help or hurt his cause? (I regularly catch him practicing those expressions in the mirror, trying on several different versions of surprise or sorrow.)
Given how similar Ezra and I are, and given my new blogging habit, I’ve been thinking a lot about telling the truth.
It’s hard to tell the truth about your life. It’s especially hard to tell the truth about parenting. You can be really witty and “honest” and talk about how hard it is. But you’ve got to do it in a way that makes people think that you are actually a really great parent. If not, people will cringe and judge you. And by people, of course, I mean me.
But what if you’re not a really great parent? Or what if you are a decent parent, but you’re not so crazy about parenting? What if your kids really aren’t all that charming or interesting or kind? What if you’re just an average, broken but hopeful parent with average, broken but lovable kids? Is that worth writing about?
What if you really hate homeschooling, but you think you should do it anyway? Should you say that aloud?
I can’t tell you the number of new mothers who have asked me over the years, “Why didn’t anyone tell me how awful this is?”
To which I always say, “I told you.”
“But I thought you were kidding.”
“Nope. I wasn’t kidding. I told you I wasn’t kidding. But you like me and think I’m a decent person, so you didn’t believe me.”
Over the last week, some people have written to say, “Great blog. But there must be some high moments too, right?”
Others, people who know me better, have written or called to say, “How come you come off sounding like such a good mom? It sounds like you’re not so great at homeschooling, but are otherwise wonderful. Too wonderful.”
Both critiques — that it’s too dour and that it’s too flattering — are right. And they are both tough to get around.
The whole truth is tough to capture. Because while it’s true that I had about 40 minutes (spread throughout the week) of nearly pure joy while teaching the boys, my overall feeling was one of dread.
I hadn’t felt that kind of dread since my first husband Scott died. Real dread. The kind that had me in bed on Wednesday morning wondering if I could just take a little Lorazepam to help me get through the day. Given that level of dread, should I write about the 4o minutes of joy? Would that give a more or less accurate picture of the week?
And while it’s true that I keep an ever watchful eye on my image, never wanting to write anything that will put either me or my kids in too bad a light, it’s also true that I am actually wonderfully wonderful.
OK. No I’m not. But it’s a rule of essay writing that the reader has to like the writer. So I make myself more likable here than I really am. Just ask my husband.
I’ve made peace with that. When you come here, you’ll get a glimpse of our life that’s both more and less wonderful, and more and less difficult, than our actual life. Which is the best version of telling the truth I can do.
And if you want to use this space to tell us about how awful it is for you to parent or be a parent or have your particular kids, have at it. And if you want to make yourself look a little better than you really are, have at that too.
Go ahead. Tell the truth.