Archive for the 'The Editor–Mama' Category

“Mommy, What Are All These Papers?”

This afternoon while my two-year-old napped, I tried to get a jump on next week by holing up in my room with my laptop and the PDFs for the latest edition of Public Health Reports, a government medical journal. Spread out around me were the different sections of the journal’s style guide. I was happily clicking along when my five-year-old walked in.

“Mommy, what are all these papers?”

My son knows I’m an editor, that I help to make books and magazines, and that sometimes I have to write about funny stuff like toilet paper or awesome stuff like Thomas the Tank Engine. He even proudly told a schoolmate’s mother that his mom was “an awful”—to her horror—until she realized from the context of their conversation that he was trying to say “an author” (a word he’d recently learned on Sesame Street—you rocked that vocab word, by the way, Lauren Graham).

I could tell by the look on his face today that he wanted to know more, to understand better what I do all day and why. So I took a stab at breaking down my career choice in a way a preschooler could understand it. The explanation came out quite easily, and it even surprised me a little.

I explained to him that I like being an editor because, to my mind, it’s like a game or a puzzle. All those papers he saw spread out around me are like the rules of the game, and the fun is pushing my brain to remember all the rules and then making sure they’re followed in whatever I’m reading. It’s like the classic “Look and Look Again” game from his Highlights magazine. If I can identify all the things that are missing, I “win,” because I’ve helped complete the author’s puzzle.

I guess it was a good answer, because he listened intently, nodded, and then said, “I want to be an editor.”

“It’s a cool job, but you really have to like reading, because that’s pretty much what I do all day.”

“I love to read,” he enthused. Then, his attention already spent, he bounded back out of the room.

It doesn’t make a bit of difference to me whether my son becomes an editor, or follows in his father’s more technologically inclined footsteps, or finds a completely different path for himself. But a part of me does feel proud that even at his age, he recognizes the attraction of and value in my work, and if I’ve been able to instill (and continue to nurture) in him a love of reading, I guess that’s the biggest win of all.

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