The month of writing a novel is nearly over; actually, it’s already over in some parts of the world. But here in the Pacific Northwest, writers still have just over 13 hours to finish their novel. In the class I’m co-teaching, we have two students who haven’t finished. The other 14 have uploaded and verified their word counts and have received the NaNo “winner” badge.
One of those 14 winners is my older son. I couldn’t be more proud. He finished writing his novel on Wednesday evening while we were at the library. His word count goal was 3,000 and he made it to 3,215. It’s not all about the words, his story is good, too. But the word count became a focus for him in this process.
“I want to change my word count,” he told me last week when we were in class. My co-teacher and I were modifying word counts for some kids who were really struggling. (For anyone worried about legalities, this is approved by the folks at the Young Writer’s Program branch of NaNoWriMo.)
My son was at around 2,200 words. And, unfortunately for him, his teacher in this case is also his mother.
“I know you can make this goal,” I told him. “You’ll feel great when you meet the goal you set out to meet.”
“But I don’t know if I can do it,” he said.
I left it at that. For the next week, I proceeded to listen to my inner voice: should I have let him change his goal? Was I the worst mother in the world to keep him at 3,000 words? Was this going to make him hate writing? Hate me?
When he signed up for NaNoWriMo, I considered making his goal much lower, but he wanted to have the “normal” goal for third graders. And now I was the one encouraging him to stick with it? Had I lost my mind? Had I become one of the Kyoiku (education) Mamas (a mother who relentlessly forces her child to study) that I watched in Japan when I was teaching there? Until Wednesday night, that voice haunted me.
But when I saw his joy-filled face as he counted his final word on Wednesday night, I was glad he kept his goal. The experience of setting a challenge for himself and exceeding it? Priceless.