Show-and-tell sneaks up on us, week after week. She only goes to school Tuesdays and Thursdays, and show-and-tell is every Thursday. So 50% of school days find us scrambling around to find something to bring. I have, not surprisingly, a completely obsessive need for it to be the perfect, educational, handmade or nature-based something – a something which will both please her teacher and impress her peers.
But that is an issue for another day.
This morning we were going to print these pictures of Girl Powers feeding and holding a pair of three-week-old baby Vietnamese Potbellied Pigs (what is it with us and hungry baby animals lately?) so she could tell her class about it…
…but the printer was not cooperating.
So at the last minute I floated the idea of bringing a copy of the Raising Arizona Kids magazine in which I have my first published essay accompanied by a big glossy photo of Girl Powers on Halloween last year. She has loved showing friends and family how she is in the magazine so it seemed show-and-tell-worthy. Also I knew where it was and we had approximately three seconds to get out the door for school.
As her assistant teacher was getting her from the car in the drop-off line, Girl Powers told her proudly, “I brought a maz-a-geen for show-and-tell because I’m IN it.”
“Really? How come you’re in the magazine?”
“Because mommy is a writer.”
Mommy is a writer. Mommy is a writer. Mommy is a lot of things ending in -ER – naysayER, dish-doER, teeth-brushER, library-book-losER, nose-wipER, cuticle-pickER…okay, you get the idea. Mommy writes at nap-time and sends snarky tweets out into the vacuous internet between loads of laundry, but is mommy really a writer?
When I was a dancer I remember the same struggle with the -ER. It took a long time to go from a college student who spent more time dancing than doing anything else, to a waitress whose tips went to pay rent and buy pointe shoes, to a dance teacher (yes, the -ER crept in there) who rehearsed and performed seven days a week, to finally feeling worthy enough to call my self a dancer.
(And then when I did start finally telling people I was a dancer, they always assumed I meant stripper. Because nothing says “that girl is a stripper” like a 5’4″ college grad with pale skin, an A-cup and her hair in a bun. Seriously?)
When you don’t have a business card to validate your title, it’s kind of up to you to decide when you go from dabbling to legit. When Work = Art = Play it sometimes feels presumptuous to slap an -ER on the end of the thing you’ve done your entire life and would be doing whether or not anybody else noticed. Like some cartoonish game show judge with a bad sport coat might pop out of nowhere with a big WRONG ANSWER! buzzer as if to say “Honey, you write. You’re not a WRITER. Try again.”
In my dancing years, part of what helped me finally embrace the -ER was getting paid, consistently, for my art. The less I danced for free and instead got paid to dance (stop it! you’re picturing old men throwing $20 bills, aren’t you?), the easier it was to call myself a dancer. The same is true with writing. Yesterday I got my first check as a freelance writer:
…and then today my three-year-old brought my published work to school to show her photo and tell her class, “my mommy is a writer.”
If she says it is so, maybe I should start believing it.