Once upon a time, I was a night owl. This lasted precisely until the moment when said six-year-old came home from the hospital as a newborn, as he immediately decided that yes, 5:00 in the morning is exactly the reasonable time to wake up. Even after he started "sleeping through the night" (one of those euphemistically named milestones which boils down to "you will be slightly less insane after this finally settles in"), his "night" was from about 7pm to about 5am, and all of our attempts to move him to a schedule more to our liking were basically useless. So, for the last six years I've been an early riser, going to bed at about 10pm and getting up at 5 or 6.
Rereading the stories that I wrote in the period when my children were born, one thing that sticks out is that there are a lot of babies in them. Their publication dates were spread out over a much longer time period, so I don't know if it's possible to discern the pattern casually, but to provide two examples, the short stories The Judge's Right Hand and The Other City were written in this period. Both of them featured children in danger of being killed and/or eaten. You may choose to interpret this as sublimated parental anxiety or, somewhat more disturbingly, outlets of parental frustration.
Storm Bride is one of the last things I wrote in this time, and it contains some of my wrestling with the questions of motherhood and parenthood in general. The book is rich in family relationships: the primary female characters are two adoptive sisters, one of whom is pregnant, and in counterpoint to them are the antagonist, his pregnant wife, and his brother. I'm happy to say that very little in this book represents my personal experience as a parent, given that the mothers and the fathers in this book all suffer tremendously, and yet the experience is transformative for all of them.
Fantasy literature often works by taking a commonplace truism, and then literalizing and expanding it to get at its inside. In this case, the truism that I wanted to explore is that becoming a parent changes you. In my case, it changes my sleep patterns. In Storm Bride it changes the fates of two war-torn nations. No one is exactly happy about the changes required, at least not at first. But the thing about parenthood is that changes which initially seem miserable can turn out to be sublime.
This morning, after putting on his winter clothes, my son eagerly grabbed my hand and demanded I come outside with him. I pulled on a jacket and shivered out into the snow of my backyard, wishing I were still asleep. And then he pointed up into the freezing winter sky and said, "Look! So many stars!"
J.S. Bangs novel, Storm Bride, is available from Amazon US (paper or ebook), Amazon UK (paper or ebook), or Barnes & Noble.
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