I love writing children into my books. They’re cute, they’re fun, they add to the dynamics of a story, and—let’s face it—they pull on our heartstrings. I think one of the primary reasons I enjoy writing (and reading) about children so much is because we, as adults, can learn so much from them! Wouldn’t you agree? There’s nothing quite like the innocence and the (sometimes blunt) honesty of a child to make us think and perhaps even reevaluate. They tell it like it is as they see people, life, and situations without the “filters” we’ve learned to adapt as we’ve grown older. Children can teach us patience, but they can also make us stop and think before we speak. The photo shown here is one of my favorites of our three children because it shows their distinct personalities: notice how Sarah is looking away from the camera. She’s more quiet, the intellectual dreamer. Independent Chelsea has that “You talkin’ to me?” vibe happening. And Matthew, bless his little heart, is being protective of his older sisters, as always.
Case in point: When our oldest, Sarah, was a toddler, I used to call people “turkey” when they did something I didn’t like. I remember driving with her one day on the highway and someone cut me off. From the backseat, Sarah yelled, “You turkey!” In a way, it was cute. In another way, I’m thankful I hadn’t used an even stronger word. When a child actor spews a profane word, others laugh, but oh how it riles me! Hearing Sarah repeat my words taught me a valuable lesson as a new mother: I need to be very careful of the words that come from my mouth.
Ephesians 4:29: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (NIV)
Our son, Matthew, is high-functioning autistic (Asperger’s Syndrome), but—at age 19—he is very intelligent yet still has the sweetness of a boy much younger than his chronological age. People often don’t know how to respond to Matthew’s openness and complete ease in saying “I love you.” One of his teachers in high school told him that she wasn’t allowed to respond when he told her he loved her. But then she confided to me she would pull him aside each day and whisper, “I love you, too, Matthew.” His helpful spirit and genuine love for people shines in everything he does. He doesn’t care what others think about him, and there are times when I really envy that quality!
Our daughter, Chelsea, is very loving, but also quite headstrong and independent. She’s also blessed us with our first grandchild, Amelia Grace (see her photo; you can’t miss the huge headband!). As you can see, she is a happy child and she is the light of our lives. My husband, Jim, and I are reminded all over again how quickly children grow. It’s amazing the changes Amelia has gone through each month. At six months old, she’s now rocking on her haunches and giving us that “Just you wait!” look. I have the feeling that once Amelia starts crawling, she’ll be pulling up and walking soon after. I can’t wait until she starts talking!
All in all, children are an incomparable blessing from the Lord.
Psalm 127:3: Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.
I can’t imagine my upcoming Christmas story, Starlight in Her Eyes, without sweet, six-year-old, Lily, who challenges my cheeky Brit, Colin Young (from Sleigh Ride Together with You). As a bachelor, Colin’s not used to little ones, but he’s a natural, and he and Lily immediately take to one another. I especially love how kids can bring out the emotions and love in a man. Children are now also figuring quite prominently into my Lewis Legacy Series. In my estimation, my stories are much richer for the addition of my TeamWork kids.
What have your kids or a child you know (or have known in the past) taught you? I’d love to hear, so please feel free to share!
I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my latest release, Enchantment, where little Joe Lewis has a man-to-man chat with his father, Sam, about Gracie, a little girl (and the daughter of Sam’s TeamWork volunteers) who keeps punching Joe in the arm.
Here’s that excerpt:
“Dad, I’ve got a problem.”
Joe only called him Dad when he wanted a heart-to-heart chat. His boy was almost four going on forty. He took things so seriously. His TeamWork reports could wait. “Sure, son. Want to go sit on the porch and talk?”
“Uh huh.” Joe walked beside Sam from the office and out onto the porch. The early evening had cooled a bit and a slight breeze rustled the leaves of the towering trees.
In a few minutes, he’d walk his children over to the dining hall for dinner. He’d put in an appearance earlier but Lexa had shooed him out, telling him everything was under control. The tantalizing aromas of food filled the air. The ladies of the One Nation Church had been cooking for hours, and they were all in for quite a feast tonight.
After Joe dropped into one of the rockers, Sam took the other. “Tell me what’s bothering you.”
“Ah.” Resting one elbow on the arm of the chair, Sam began to rock as he stared out over the expanse of the camp. Maybe it was no surprise that—as the son of two former financial planners—Joe already exhibited signs of an analytical, logical mind. Sam’s brother, Will, was Joe’s personal hero these days. When he’d first heard Will had been named a shuttle commander for an upcoming NASA mission, Joe had whooped and hollered and declared he wanted to be an astronaut. No doubt they’d be paying a lot of visits to Johnson Space Center.
Sam glanced over at Joe. “How’s that arm?” Since they’d arrived at the camp, Joe had complained that Gracie punched him at every available opportunity. He knew Natalie and Marc were working with their daughter to try and control her inclination to sock Joe, apparently Gracie’s sole target.
Joe rubbed his fingers over his upper right arm. At least no bruises were visible. “Sore. Like always when Gracie’s around. It’s good she lives in Massa….”
“Massachusetts. Why do you think she hits you?”
Scrunching his features into a frown, Joe appeared to consider the question. “’Cause she’s mean.”
“Is she mean all the time?”
“No. She’s nice to Hannah and Leah. And Luke. She wants to carry Emily around like she’s her baby. Chloe thinks Gracie’s okay when she’s not bossy.”
The corners of Sam’s mouth quirked. “And what do you think?”
“I think Gracie hates boys.”
“That could be it, although I doubt it’s as strong as hate. Do you like Gracie? Even though she’s a girl?”
“Sort of. If she’d stop hitting me all the time, I might like her better. I don’t hate her.” Joe’s feet didn’t reach the porch floor, so he scooted to the edge of the chair. Pushing off with both feet, he began to rock.
“You know, Joe, sometimes girls hit boys for the opposite reason. Maybe Gracie punches you in the arm because—deep down inside—she secretly likes you.”
“She sure has a funny way of showing it.”
Sam laughed. “You know, your mother wasn’t sure she liked me all that much when she first met me, either. It was at our first TeamWork mission together outside San Antonio.”
“Did Mommy hit you?”
“She did, but it was an accident. We had a flat tire on the old Volvo station wagon—the one in the garage out back at home in Houston—and I was trying to fix it. When Mommy tried to hand me a wrench, it slipped out of her hand and hit my leg.”
“So she didn’t mean to do it.” The implication from Joe being the situation was different since Gracie intended to hit him. Smart boy.
“No, no. It was heavy and slippery. But she sure made a big impression on me. And I think Gracie’s made an impression on you.”
Joe tilted his head. “What’s that mean?”
Sam chuckled and ran one hand over his chin. “It means I started liking your mother.”
“Because she hit you?”
He wasn’t doing the best job of explaining. “Mommy got my attention, but then she kept my attention because she was different from all the other girls. In a good way.”
“Yeah. Gracie’s different, too, but does that mean I have to like her?”
Joe asked insightful questions that helped to keep Sam sharp. He learned from his children on a daily basis, and that was one of his favorite parts of being a father. “As a Christian, we’re told in the Bible to love one another. I always try to do that even when people do things I don’t like.”
“Like what?” Joe rocked away in his chair and looked at him with wide-eyed innocence.
“They lie or they cheat. Or they do something they know could hurt someone else and they do it, anyway.”
“Yep.” Joe shook his head with a sad expression. The compassion in his boy—even for Gracie—warmed his heart. They wouldn’t be having this discussion now if he didn’t care.
“Sometimes it’s hard to like people, Joe. All God asks is that we try. Be patient with Gracie. God’s working in her heart just like He’s working on you and me.”
Joe nodded. “Makes sense. My tummy growled. Is it time to eat?”
“So did mine.” Sam lifted from the chair. “Let’s go get your sisters and head on over to the dining hall. Thanks for the talk, son.”
Kimberly Rose Johnson says
Hi, JoAnn, great post! In a word my kids taught me patience.
I love writing kids into stories too. One contest I entered had a judge who didn’t like children in stories and said if she didn’t have to read it to judge it, she wouldn’t have kept reading. LOL that MS semi-finaled in the contest and went on to become my first published book–KID included. :)
I guess children in books aren’t for everyone. :)
Your granddaughter is a doll. So precious.
JoAnn Durgin says
Kim, I love that your book semi-finaled, and frankly, I’ve only heard of a very few readers who don’t like kids in stories. Wow. That boggles the old brain here. Glad it went on to become your first published book, too (the first of many wonderful books!). I didn’t know that photo of Amelia would be the one to show up, but I guess it fit the parameters or whatever for the post better than the others (and you might remember that my Amy in Daydreams was actually Amelia, although that’s not why Chelsea named her daughter Amelia). Fun fact to know and tell! Blessings, and thanks for the comment. :)
Valerie Comer says
My granddaughters, in particular, have taught me about God’s love for me. Not earned, it just “is.” It’s relationship based, not merit based.
I’ve written children into a couple of recent novels and will again in my next one. Like you, it is partly the logistics of continuing a longer series where the long- married earlier characters still play a part. The offspring certainly add a new dimension and, like your excerpt shows, give the adult characters space to demonstrate deep qualities, too. I’ll be digging in with a Enchantment soon!
JoAnn Durgin says
Thanks, Val, and I love what you said about your granddaughters teaching you about God’s love. Isn’t that the truth? “It’s relationship based, not merit based.” Beautiful sentiment. Blessings, and thanks for the comment. :)
My teenage daughter is teaching me to be MUCH more effective at dealing with conflict!!! LOL.
JoAnn Durgin says
LOL, Lee. Yes, they will certainly do that. And, as much as I hate to tell you, they will continue to sometimes strain your patience. But (as you also know) it’s all worth it. Many times over. Just remember that when the going gets rough. Blessings. :)
HA HA….I am chuckling at this because I recently struggled with a secret baby in one of my books. I kept thinking…why won’t this baby hush and let the romance get started? I deal better with five and up, although tweens and teens are a challenge. I think my teen daughter has taught me to be more tolerant. I sometimes might see someone wearing something skimpy and I’ll make a comment to her about it. She’s taught me not to be so Mom judgey. I’m trying.
JoAnn Durgin says
Ah, the clothing issue can sometimes be tricky. It really is an entirely different generation. I remember begging my mom for those white go-go boots in second grade. My, how times HAVE changed, huh? Makes me feel somewhat older. LOL. I did the secret baby storyline in one of my series books, so I understand that, too. I’m sure you managed to get plenty of romance in there, too, Belle. Thanks for the comment. Blessings!
Ann Ellison says
Enjoyed reading this and getting a glimpse into your family life. Of course, you know how much I enjoy your books. Loved the story about Matthew and the teacher. I have a nephew that is borderline autistic. He is in his 40’s now but he is such a special young man and a joy to be around.
JoAnn Durgin says
Thank you, Ann. Great to hear your nephew is such a joy, as Matthew is. There are many kids with autism who have many social issues, often severe, but we’re blessed with Matthew. In many ways, he’s enriched our lives incomparably and we’ve learned a lot from him. Blessings.
Autumn Macarthur says
Thanks for another lovely, honest post, JoAnn! We weren’t blessed with children, but I do have a wonderful real-life nephew. He’s suddenly a whole foot taller than me, how do they grow so fast!
I love writing stories with children, too. My last release featured a church day out for special needs kids, and the story I’m writing now has a gorgeous four year old who enlists his cousins’ help to get his divorced parents back together. I can’t want to have fun with that :)
JoAnn Durgin says
Thanks for stopping by, as always, Autumn! Can’t wait to read your stories with children, too. They sound wonderful. Blessings! :)
Margaret Kazmierczak says
Yes kids have it, they see the world through unblinkered eyes and have so much to teach us adults. I have one book that I have written that contains four children ranging from ten to sixteen and I love them all. I think children in books keeps them grounded and the adults on their toes.
JoAnn Durgin says
You are so right, Margaret! They keep us honest and sharp, that’s for sure. Thanks for visiting InspyRomance and sharing your comment. Blessings. :)