Literary agent Kristin Nelson posted this very interesting item today. You can even read a comment I left for her!
In short, she received a nastygram from a parent upset that she’d rejected a child’s query letter. I can sooo relate. That’s because at least once a quarter, my husband, a high school history teacher, brings home at least one story of a parent who wasn’t happy with a decision he made about their child’s education. Whether it was to fail them or issue a lower grade or, heck, kick them out of his room for distracting other kids, these parents felt that he had done their children a tremendous disservice.
It constantly amazes me that parents would rather become part of the “instant gratification” mania that makes people think they are entitled to whatever they want, whenever they want, than train their children that life is unfair, there’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s important to learn how to make lemonade of lemons. (Forgive the cliches. I want to get back to my rewrite.)
I’ve already seen this in play with Hamlet – and honestly, among other parents on the playground. We tell our kids to share, to take turns, not to push; if they push, it’s a time-out. And if the other kids don’t want to play with my kid – in other words, if they reject him – I don’t scold them or their parents; I reassure Hamlet that sometimes other kids just don’t want to play, and he can do his own thing. Often he figures this out on his own. (He’s got a leg up on me. I spent years taking that kind of thing personally.) I advocated for him exactly once. We were at a friend’s house, her kids were playing rough and he was scared, so I asked them to find a quieter game. They did.
It is clear that even at the age of 3, he’s starting to learn the hard way about rejection. While our natural instinct as parents is to protect our children, we would be better served to think of ourselves as a “safe place” within which to learn them. In other words, we are not the ones rejecting – our job is to put the rejection into context, give it some perspective. I think a lot of parents have a hard time with this most of all because rejection of their children represents their own failures. I’d like to think, however, that whatever Hamlet decides to do with his life, my career can serve as a guide for him. I’ve had a ridiculously easy time getting accepted in some places – and a ridiculously hard time, like every other writer, in others. I’d like someday to be able to tell him, “Yeah, rejection sucks. Let me try to help you improve.”
In closing, I will take the opportunity to link to one of Kristin’s other commenters, Liane, with whom I agreed. Her most recent post is about not making excuses as to why one can’t write. It’s a very motivational, powerful item for a writing mother to read. And I think it ties in, in a roundabout way, to the whole “life is unfair” concept. As her end point shows, it’s all about hard work and perseverance – not entitlement. You want something bad enough, you work for it. Otherwise, really, what’s the point?