This is a mantra that every parent has spoken at least 50,000 times within the first 5 years, multiplied by the number of children you have, divided by 20 if your offspring are very well behaved and mindful. (Insert copious amounts of laughter here)
Yesterday, my children had a raucous of a good time with several of their cousins who had come over for a play date. They had a blast. One of their cousins spent the night. Fun and hijinks were had by all. Of course, playing hard means leaving an absolute mess, right?
We aren’t talking about “left the legos out” kind of mess. We aren’t even “dumped out the toy box” level of mess. We are talking about full room domination, contained hurricane, curtains torn off the windows, bookshelves upside down level of mess.
Children’s response to “Clean Your Room!” ?
“But we didn’t make that mess!”
And here is the point where I relate my experiences as a parent with my experiences as a writer. I don’t know who it was who coined the phrase “Write what you Know”, but these living experiences are the bread and butter of the journeys that our characters go through. In this particular scenario, I had a lesson to teach my children, that surprisingly taught me something as well.
“You still have to clean your room,” I said. “Your cousins aren’t here anymore and your room is still a mess”
“But we didn’t make this mess, our cousins did! It’s Not Fair!”
I picked up the fallen curtain rod and rehung the curtains that went on it. “Did I knock down your curtains?” They told me no. “Is it fair that I have to put up your curtains?”
“But we can’t put up the curtains, we’re too little and don’t know how,” replied my 7 year old.
“Uh, huh, But it’s not fair! I didn’t knock down the curtains. Why do I have to put them up?” I imitated my children.
“Because you have to!” answered my 6 year old.
I finished hanging the curtains and smiled at my children. “Exactly. It’s not fair, but I still have to do it.” I pointed out the mess around me. “It might not be fair that you have to clean up after your guests, but you still have to clean your room. It’s the right thing to do.”
Teaching my kids that the Right Thing isn’t always the Fair Thing wasn’t on the agenda for the day. Truthfully, had my children not brought up the issue of fairness, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought, and this pearl of wisdom would have stayed buried in my subconscious. So when I sat down to brainstorm story ideas, I pulled up my Master List of Big Ideas, the handbag from which I pull my story ideas and twists, and added: “What is Right isn’t always Fair, and what is Fair, isn’t always Right.”
What will I do with this? I don’t know. However, it’s there in my grab bag of ideas, and is sure to find its way into my future writings. The issue may come up in fictional politics, mimicking the socialism of some made up kingdom. It might find its way into the life of a hero, who has to sacrifice almost everything to save a world that could care less about him. It might come in a simple argument between two siblings who don’t want to share the cleaning responsibilities. Oh, well! Back to the fray.
Happy Writing! (And parenting where applicable!)