So there I was, right? Nose to the grindstone, writing away. New and shiny WIP (work in progress), 30,000 words in, deadline shining like a beacon on the horizon—not too close, not too far away, which is just the way I like it. The only hiccup was that my 11-year-old son was joyously commencing his do-nothing, intentionally-rot-the-brain summer vacation. That meant there would be constant running commentary on his video games (he loves to share) and frequent requests for food, but he’s gotten to the age where he can amuse himself most of the time, so I wasn’t too concerned. Hey, he’s my kid—I’d be happy to spend time with him during the day. Without that pesky getting-to-school alarm clock going off in the morning, I could compensate by staying up into the wee hours every night, writing when the house was quiet. Good plan.
See? Crushing. It.
Just as I thought my biggest problem would be what to name my main character’s best friend, I was felled by a stomach virus. And I mean completely flattened. Could do nothing but roll around, moan, and eat toast. And then repeat the process as my stomach rejected the toast.
That passed after about a week, thank goodness, but I must have breathed on my laptop in the meantime, because suddenly it came down with some sort of creeping crud, seized up, and ceased to be. I wept over its blank, black screen until the computer guru who lives in this house took pity on me and resurrected it with a new hard drive. No data lost! I could pick up right where I left off in my WIP!
And then the stomach virus came back. As it does. So that was another week down.
But did I think that was the worst of it? Did I think I was in the clear once my stomach started behaving and my laptop stopped fritzing on me? Oh, how naive I was, because after that came the dreaded plot twist:
Son Has a Karate Accident.
It was “just” a broken wrist. “Just”…as in “Hey, remember that spell in the Harry Potter books that removed someone’s bone so their limb looked all rubbery and shit?” Yeah. That.
Son did not cry. Mama did not faint. Not sure how we managed it, to be honest. But we did what most families end up doing sooner or later, which was take a ride in an ambulance to the pediatric ED and stay there for hours upon hours. Many X-rays, an army of doctors knocking the kid out and setting his arm, the arm fighting back because it didn’t feel like being put back the way it was, and an armpit-to-fingertips plaster cast later, we were home, and our summer was suddenly drastically altered.
Vacation to California? Cancelled. Camping trip? Also gone-zo. Kid’s daily hell-for-leather rides on his new bike? Not even. And…my book?
What book is that, again?
Yep. Priorities, man. Nursing a broken kid trumps all else. I couldn’t write even if I wanted to, because my author brain abdicated the throne to my mommy brain. Mommy brains concern themselves solely with the comfort and care of said broken kid. Watching for nerve damage. Wondering if the swelling in his fingers is actually going down or if it’s just an illusion/wishful thinking. Trying to figure out the logistics of giving the half-grown kid a bath when he has a giant, heavy plaster cast instead of a nimble, short, waterproof one. Wondering why six or seven hours of sleep, which used to be plenty, was now nowhere near enough—maybe because I’m sleeping with one eye open and one ear cocked in case my broken kid needs something in the middle of the night. After the adventure with the Percocet the hospital gave him, I’m a little on edge. (Never. again. with the Perc.)
Mommy brain does not concern itself with trivialities like whether that plot hole is going to get filled, if that secondary plot is necessary, if that joke works, or whether it matters what color hair the hero has. Honestly, it’s amazing how something that seemed so important can suddenly cease to matter.
It’s been two weeks and it still doesn’t matter.
Oh sure, my son is doing better. He’s figuring out how to work around the giant cast and how to fill his days without his Xbox controller or his bike. As for me, I think about my story a lot, and I’ve even made a few notes for later, but I’m not actually writing. It’s not even an option. My agent and I have agreed to push the deadline out as far as necessary; thank goodness she’s fine with that. But really, even if she weren’t, it wouldn’t matter.
Because my kid is broken.
I realize it could have been a lot worse—three different casts over the course of six weeks and cancelled summer plans is nothing compared to what might have happened (surgery, pins, physical therapy)—and I’m grateful for that. Still, my kid is broken. And when your kid is broken, even just a little bit (which is always more than a parent would ever prefer), nothing else matters.
In my more philosophical moments, I’m almost grateful for this forced break (no pun intended). Maybe I was pushing too hard. Maybe taking a breather will be good for the WIP, not to mention my sanity. My stress levels remain high, but for a better reason than coming up with a book that total strangers will approve of and like enough to buy. My kid is broken, and I’m gonna mother.
Whether he likes it or not.