Have you ever wanted to sit down and share everything that you have learned with your child (or children)? I can only imagine that it’s every parent’s goal to teach their offspring about their triumphs and failures to teach them valuable life lessons. Well, Kirsten Wreggitt did. Before I Let You Go: Stories for My Grown Son is a series of short stories in letter form written from mother to son. Her vignette’s deal with the difficulty of marriage, the pain that comes from loving your child too much and regrets. As a mother, I appreciated it for the way that the author structures essential life lessons, but as a woman, I enjoyed reading about her journey through motherhood and marriage, and her self-discovery along the way.
In here I can say the things that catch in my throat. I can say the things that make your eyes roll. In here I can safely share what I have always wanted to tell you, but there just was never the right time.
Maribel Garcia: Book Club Babble is proud to have the author with us today. Kirsten, thank you so much for joining us today. You wrote this book in an effort to make the process of letting your grown son go (he was moving out of your house). Did writing make it easier or harder (since you had to process it)?
Kirsten Wreggitt: I’m not sure if writing the book made letting him go any easier or harder, but it certainly made me focus intensely on our entire relationship and all the things I wanted him to know about me, beyond me being his Mom. I relived much of his childhood and our relationship through the stories I included. I mourned a bit for the past, but I also got to spend some time savoring those memories. Writing this book was a bit like sitting down with an old photo album! And yes, writing this type of memoir meant that I really did have to process letting him go. All that reflection has made redefining myself as more than “Mom” much easier now.
MG: You also reminded us of the importance of vulnerability. One theme that runs under the surface of every story in your book is about loving fully. You write: Life can dish up loss and regret, and it would be so much easier to go through our journey without opening our hearts up to love; it is too vulnerable. Yet I believe this is the entire point of life: to love. Despite the pain of loss, we must love fully to create our greatest moments of joy. Tell us more about this, specifically, how the genre of memoir is an excellent venue for such a strategy.
Kirsten Wreggitt: Writing my memoir was an act of love, and that made it incredibly vulnerable. The most common comment I get from people who read it is “wow, you were brave to write this, you shared such private and intimate thoughts.” And I did. I wrote it for my son, and so I held nothing back. I think memoir writing forces the memoirist to confront the truth of their lives and either decide to share it fully or step back a little from the rawness. I used this book to openly express my love and vulnerability to my son. No risk, no reward, right?
MG: The writing process, as you have stated before, was no cake walk. I can only imagine that you relive each of the stories, was there something that you learned about yourself after writing it, that surprised you?
Kirsten Wreggitt: I remember writing one story in particular, about the loss of our dog, that was not easy. My son came home as I was writing it and as he popped by my office, he caught me in a full ‘ugly cry’. Writing a story in the present tense means that you relive the event again, moment to moment. I have no idea what he thought about me crying into my keyboard, but he quickly walked away!
What I learned most about myself through writing this book is my need to find meaning in our moments. Both good and bad stuff has happened in my life, and I found that as long as I could take away a little lesson from it, I could make sense of it all. I was most surprised at my need for this even though it is a characteristically human trait to want to understand the meaning behind things.
MG: In an interview, you have stated that the book is also about letting go of another person, yourself as a mother. Now that you have released your child into the world? Do you think that you will write about life after motherhood?
Kirsten Wreggitt: Maybe! What I have discovered about life after motherhood is the sense that my life is being handed back to me with no titles attached. It feels like a blank slate, and I hope that I create something in this next phase of my life that will be worth writing about someday!
MG: Did you learn anything surprising about yourself or your message during your writing process?
Kirsten Wreggitt: Memoir writing is all about sifting through your memories and trying to make sense of what happened, what you learned, how you were transformed, and what you could share with others that will resonate. I learned that I am not so unique; my story is mostly like every other woman’s story. Before writing my book, I had this intense desire to know other people’s inner journeys. This book helped me realize that the only inner journey I can know is my own, but it is likely very similar to the inner journeys others are having, just through their eyes and their experiences.
MG: How did writing this book help you process the empty nest transition?
Writing a memoir at this point in my life was a great way to put a bow on those years. I feel like I have made sense of my life up until now and it helped me look back with new eyes at my child-rearing years. I can now look forward to this next part of my life with a clear sense of my past. We know as parents that our entire role is to help our children gain their independence and let them go. This book may have made the letting go a little easier for me because I got to say all the things I have always wanted to say.
MG: After I read Before I Let You Go, I devoured Average is Extraordinary. Can you tell our readers about that book and maybe a bit about your next project?
Kirsten Wreggitt: I’m glad to hear you liked Average is Extraordinary! It is my manifesto for living and it focuses on finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Most of us will live and die as average people and our current culture is sending us messages everyday that we should strive to be anything but average. I was tired of focusing on how I wasn’t enough, and so I wrote a little manifesto booklet to focus on how life is anything but mediocre even though we might be average.
My next project is a fiction book. I loved writing my memoir, but I am now looking forward to having the creative license about what happens to the characters instead of being constrained by the facts as you are in memoir writing. I am enjoying the freedom of fiction so far!
MG: Can you tell our readers a little bit about your creative process?
Kirsten Wreggitt: When I wrote my memoir, I got up at 5:00 am every day and wrote between 500 and 800 words. You can imagine that it took a long time at that rate, over a year, but that discipline allowed me to get it written. I’m finding writing fiction is a little different. I spend much time with my characters in my head. They are with me when I am hiking, people watching or reading other books. I have written about a third of the book, but now I am gathering richer character traits and more intriguing storylines before writing further. I have a list of “problems” in my head, and I am working through that checklist before I sit down to write with more discipline.
Kirsten, thank you so much!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kirsten is an author, facilitator, and business consultant. She lives in Calgary, Alberta, with her family. She has always written for herself but took the leap in 2016 to write her memoir and share it with others. “Before I Let You Go: Stories for My Grown Son” was published in November 2018. Her writing explores finding meaning in our life experiences and embracing the extraordinary in the average. She is continuing to write and shares some of this writing through her blog and in her weekly newsletter. When she isn’t writing, she can be found exploring nature: either by hiking somewhere or gardening in her own backyard.