May 26, 2018

Metaphorically Speaking... Marnie Pohlmann

I was visiting my son and his family this past week while my husband took a course toward his Master's in Leadership degree. I have taken some classes at an undergraduate level, but this time I needed grandbaby hugs more than education. On this visit though, I have received both hugs and knowledge.

We don't see our grandchildren very often as we live in northern British Columbia and their family lives in Saskatchewan. Yet the youngest, my Sweet-Pea grand-girl, did not play strange with us and willingly snuggled in to read books between running to get into mischief or demanding with a combination of sounds and sign language what she wanted. My most favourite (and only) grandson, no longer a baby but a wonderful little boy, was quick to ask me to play Lego or go on imaginary superhero adventures. He often said, "me love you" and my heart would melt.

I was able to watch the grands by myself a few times during the week, and I soon remembered how exhausting parenting is! Two active young ones demanding attention had me going upstairs and down, inside and out, to play or to get snacks or to wash up dirty hands or bum. Somehow it was easier to balance firm discipline with loving grace while caring for my grands than it ever was with my own kids. Perhaps that was because I saw the generational potential of their unique personalities rather than suffer the angst of not knowing how to parent. Or because I was not also working, doing laundry and cleaning house in sleep-deprived exhaustion so I could enjoy a more relaxed time. (But what made me think I would have time to write and publish this post while visiting grandchildren!)

It has been said, "writing is like giving birth." Perhaps writer Flannery O'Connor described writing more accurately saying, "Writing is like giving birth to a piano sideways. Anyone who perseveres is either talented or nuts." (So, the question begs to be asked, am I talented or am I nuts? Or is it a combination of both that keeps me writing? And is it this question that keeps you reading to find the answer?) I digress...

Birth does not end the process of childbearing. That event is only the beginning. Parenting the baby takes a lifetime. No matter how old a child is, they will always be Mom and Dad's baby.

If writing is like birth, then parenting must be the editing process. Encouraging the lovely and being disciplined enough to correct the unlovely, such as improper verbiage or defiant grammar and punctuation. Editing can be a challenge and is exhausting yet is necessary for a child to be ready to be sent out into the world.

I have used the metaphor of parenting before in a post to describe how writing and faith are complete but never finished. I often use metaphors in my writing. I often see metaphors in my faith walk, and they help me make sense of life. It is how I process, and how I communicate.

This week as a visiting grandparent I have been given a new view. What is the grandparent role in writing? Or in faith?

We know the caricature of grandparents who spoil their children and then give them back to the parents to handle. "If mom says no, ask Gramma." The reality is, though, that most grandparents love their grands enough not to spoil them. They will be a little more lenient maybe, but loving grandparents still insist on "please" and "thank you" or "three more bites of broccoli before you get dessert." Grandparents who spend any amount of time with their grandchildren will do more parenting than spoiling. The caricature is not a true picture even though it is built on a portion of truth.

We also know writing, or any artistic representation, cannot take the place of living what is presented. Writers use metaphor as a tool to help readers see what they already know in order to lead them to another thought. 

I can see that grandparenting is not a good metaphor for writing. Like parenting, we never truly move on from being a writer. Perhaps we choose to play more than be disciplined but there are no grandparent writers, only writers.

And we know God has no grandchildren. Each person who recognizes God's sovereignty becomes His own child. He is Father, not Grandfather. Even His wisdom cannot be compared to a grandfather because He is so much wiser. God is simply much more than we can capture in a metaphor. Still, we try.

All metaphors, taken far enough, will fall apart. At most, they are micro-glimpses of just a small part of truth. Grandparenting for a couple days can suggest parenting but does not compare to parenting day in and day out. Grandparenting is perhaps only like writing in that we can choose when to play and when to practice discipline. And while God does love us like parents love their kids, parental love and even grandparent love still do not adequately capture the perfect balance of mercy and judgment that God provides.

This week I have learned that perhaps the best metaphor for writing is a faith walk, and the best metaphor for my faith walk is writing. Both contain elements of fun and discipline. Both have times when they are easy and when they are difficult. And neither is anything like grandparenting. Or are they? 

How would you expand on the statements "writing is like grandparenting" and "faith is like grandparenting?" Or would you just agree that writers must be a little nuts?

Marnie Pohlmann is a daughter of God, a gramma who loves her two beautiful grands, and a writer of metaphors and more. Phosphorescent, adventures in absorbing and reflecting God's light.


  1. Wonderful post! Being a grandparent sure is fun and rewarding - just like writing. Enjoy!

  2. We're nuts. :) I really love the way you expanded on this metaphor of parenting in this post, though. So true. (And I 'felt' myself in much of what you said in regard to grandparenting, too!) Hope you had a fantastic time!

  3. Thank you for this fun post Marnie. Of the three questions you ask at the end I would go for the third. After reading your post I have to conclude that being nuts isn't that bad. I like it. :) I must say too you gave me lots of smiles as I read about your visits with your littles. Thanks Marnie.

  4. This has made me smile, and I do think writers overthink as well ... but it does also help to be nuts to be a grandparent ... it seems to make it more fun. I like your line on metaphors: "Writers use metaphors as a tool to help readers see what they already know in order to lead them to another thought." Great post!


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