MCN Columnists
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

So Many Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

Published under 1,000 Monkeys.

When people I interact with in my professional life learn that I have five children (and a grandchild, even!) they are often astonished. These days, the idea of someone having a large family is (at least outside of homeschooling or Amish circles) a bit out-of-fashion. I get asked a lot of questions like: How on earth do you balance having all those kids with working? When do you find time for yourself? How do you handle it? from both friends who know me well and strangers who hear me speak on panels at film festivals. My answer to those questions is: very carefully.

My oldest daughter is now 24 and (more or less) independent; my four younger kids are almost-thirteen, ten, eight and six. Having four kids in the house is a lot of work sometimes, (though it’s infinitely easier now than when they were younger) — work my child-free single friends can imagine but never truly understand, in the same way that I can never truly understand how it feels to be completely free of other people depending upon you so completely. Child-free folks can dabble in parenting by occasionally hanging with friends’ kids or being godparents or cool aunties, and I can dabble in child-free freedom on film festival trips or my weekends without the kids, but we live such completely different existences, my single friends and I, that our grasp of each others’ realities is by necessity limited.

Balancing kids with work, particularly now that I’m a single mom, can be a challenge; it helps that I have a level of stamina that those around me sometimes find overwhelming and annoying. When I have to be, I am the proverbial Energizer Bunny: I keep going and going and going … although, as I’ve had to learn these past six months of battling illness, the battery does, occasionally, run out.


I always wanted a large family. In spite of coming from a family of Catholics (so Catholic we can even claim my-uncle-the-retired-priest, for Pete’s sake!), I did not have a slew of siblings and cousins to grow up with. I had one brother and one cousin. That was it. My brother, seven years younger, was a pain (oh, you know I love you, brother … you’re much better now that you’re not six) and my cousin, three years older, mostly tormented and teased me (although he did also chaperone me to my first rock concert — well, if you can call REO Speedwagon “rock”). I was always jealous when I was growing up of friends who had tons of cousins to hang with at family gatherings, fascinated by families with more than the requisite 2.5 kids. As I got older, it became apparent that my-brother-the-rock-star was never going to have kids, music being his one and only, all-consuming child, and my cousin also didn’t have kids of his own. That left it up to me to carry on the family genetic code … I figure if you average my kids out among the three of us, I’m really only responsible for 1.67 of them, and if it’s all the same to you I’ll claim responsiblity for the percentage of them that cleans their rooms, doesn’t argue with each other, and never talks back.

In spite of the challenges, I love having these kids and can’t imagine my life without them, even now that I’m a single mom carrying most of the weight of the day-to-day responsibility of raising them on my own (with the much-appreciated help of my mom, who moved in to pinch-hit when my kids’ father moved out; without her help I would probably be going insane about now).

The amazing thing about having kids is the purity and stability of the love you feel for them. You might have relatives you tolerate more than love or even like; you can fall out of love with a partner toward whom you once felt incredibly passionate and couldn’t imagine living without. But you just can’t fall out of love with your kids. The love between parent and child is, perhaps, the purest thing we’ll ever experience in our lives outside of moments of true spiritual revelation.

For the longest time I thought I’d only ever have one child. My oldest daughter Meg, had the misfortune to be born to me when I was 17 and incredibly stupid about being a parent (no, really, I was). Somehow, she survived my ineptitude and still likes me enough that she lives five minutes away and sees me all the time, so I guess I managed not to screw her up too badly. When Meg was 11 and had finally accepted that she would alway be an only child, her sister Neve was born.

And then two years later Jaxon came along, followed 20 months later by Veda. And just for good measure, we had Luka two years after that. Poor Meg was up to her kneecaps in siblings for most of her teen years, but we never used her as a “built in babysitter” as so many friends suggested. I wanted her to love and bond with her siblings, not resent them, and besides she wasn’t the one who decided to have all these babies, my husband and I did.

At any rate, for those of you playing along at home, that means that at one point, I had four kids aged six and under at once. Frankly, it’s a bit of a miracle I’m still sane. To be honest, I don’t recall a lot of details of those years. They were largely a blur of washing cloth diapers, endlessly nursing babies, taking the kids to playdates, trying to squeeze in regular date nights with my husband to preserve my marriage … and, outside the occasional Bunco night with the girls, taking very little care of myself. For a few years there, my “real” identity, the person I was before those babies came, got completely lost in the perpetual demands of motherhood. Fortunately that, like all things in life, was transitory, and eventually I found my way back into a career; through that I made a completely new circle of friends, got my self-confidence back as I grew more and more successful, and slowly but surely, I regained some sense of my self-identity.

Lately my kids and I have been dealing with some major life transitions and, as moms do, I’ve been trying my best to help them along the way, while I also try to maintain myself on an even keel and keep my attitude firmly set to “optimistic.” In a lot of ways, it sucks being a kid. Your life and stability are at the mercy of adults who, from a kids-eye view, refuse to practice what we preach: their father and I tell our kids they have to resolve their conflicts with each other and find a way to make up, but when it came our turn to role-model that for them with our own conflicts, we opted instead to end our marriage and throw their lives into turmoil. How do you reconcile the contradiction of that to a child?

When I feel particularly guilty or worried that we are going to end up with kids who are dependent on non-stop therapy as adults to try to untangle the damage their parents wrought upon them, I take a long, deep breath, and remind myself that all life is change, and that one important life lesson they are learning right now is that you cannot stake your happiness on things staying always as they are, because they don’t. Marriages fall apart, despite the best intentions and desire of two people to make it work. People die — sometimes people who are mommies and daddies, and sometimes even kids. Life is not fair, but that does not mean that we have to see the cup as half-empty rather than half-full.


My nearly teenage daughter and I have been having some heavy philosophical conversations of late; I love it when kids reach the age where they are old enough to start hammering out their life outlook, it’s such a fascinating process to observe and, when they let you, be a part of. We’ve had some death around us of late; there was uncertainty for months as to whether I was facing a serious malignancy right as we were also dealing with the whole divorce thing, and my kids were terrified of losing their mom. A friend of mine from Oklahoma was killed last month in a car wreck, leaving behind her young son, who is still in the hospital recovering from his own physical injuries as he mourns the loss of his mom.

And as we were talking some of this stuff over, Neve got the quiet, thoughtful look she gets when she’s processing something challenging, and then finally posited that maybe God has a plan even when someone who has young children dies; the child’s path will be forever altered by the loss of the parent, and perhaps it was supposed to be so, had to be so, for whatever path that child’s life is supposed to take to happen. As it happens, I’m enough of a fatalist to agree with her, and we ended up having a much longer conversation about it in which she thoroughly impressed me with her brilliance and clarity of thinking at such a young age.

Lately I’ve been re-reading Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart, one of my favorite spiritual/philosophical books because it is so apropos to read this book when your life is undergoing major transitions, as my own is right now. We don’t like change, most of us, even though change is an inevitable part of life. My kids and I have talked a lot about that of late — that things are hard now, harder some days than others, but that we will get through this difficult transition and then things will start to feel better, more normal. These are the times when I draw from the well of my life experience and relive my three natural childbirths, reminding myself that if I could make it through childbirth transition sans any drugs — not just once, but three times — I can handle any transition life throws my way.

Neve said something the other night that reallly struck me: Some people see the cup as half full, some see it as half empty, but that she prefers to see it as a half-full glass that has room enough to fill it up the rest of the way with something great.

That’s my girl.

– Kim Voynar
February 8, 2010

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon