by: Staci Stallings
I’ve noticed a pattern in my characters. Some people call it a story arc. Some call it rising action and falling action.
I call it “growing up.”
At the outset of each story, my characters have issues. Maybe they are family issues or personal issues. Those issues might be about control or fear; jealousy or anger. As the story unfolds, things happen to test and prod and sometimes shove the character into becoming more than they were (or realized they were) at the beginning.
So I have someone who is a control freak, and events conspire to make her realize that she really doesn’t have control and to learn to give that up. Or I have someone who is mired in mistakes of the past, and through the story learns to let go of the past and be the new person he is today.
As I’m also learning, life and art are not always so very different.
Take my oldest daughter. This weekend in is the Spring Formal (Prom). She’s a junior, so this is her first year to go and our first time through this rodeo even as a family. There’s the dress and the shoes (which someone still needs to get!). The corsage and the decorations. There’s the planning of the meal and the songs for the dance.
Funny thing is… I remember being a junior. What was that, like 10 minutes ago or something? I remember planning our Prom. The theme was “In Your Wildest Dreams” and we had a castle and a moat and our castle doors even opened onto the event! We had swans we had made as table decorations, and I wore a pink-and-white lace dress and went with my best friend.
And now my daughter is going…
The interesting thing I have noticed especially these last few months as she begins to step into adulthood is that my growing up has been influenced and prodded along by her growing up.
Now this is the child who is early for everything. She even got here three months early! And from that time to this, I’ve had to grow up in order to raise her.
First it was the hospital thing and navigating terms like IV and blown veins and infusion. Then when she came home, it was letting go of life being about me at all. Suddenly, even sleep was not under my control. As the days turned into months, I learned that walking across a parking lot was a scary thing… just as it had been for my grandmother who always insisted that we hold her hand.
Didn’t understand that at the time.
Then I learned about walking away from the kindergarten door and 5th grade graduation. I learned about hot-pan stains on the carpet that will never come out and how a person can love to unload the dishwasher but refuse to load it. I’ve learned that with teenagers you have to let go until THEY choose to grab on and then how to hold them for as long as they need. I’ve learned first to be a manager and now a supervisor to her life.
I’ve learned that watching your child drive on ice is even scarier than you driving on ice. I’ve learned that the world can be really unfair and even cruel sometimes, and in those moments, the child needs you to be a safe place to fall–even if you can’t fix it.
I’ve learned that sometimes you will think you can’t make it through the next five minutes, and then you turn around and it’s been five years. I’ve learned how awesome she is as a person and how lucky I am to have her in my life.
The lessons won’t stop here. I will get to keep learning new ones and learning to grow up… even as I watch her grow up.
It’s truly fascinating stuff…
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