Category: Poetry

Filtering Your Words- One Of Parenting’s Greatest Challenges: A Poem

walking-in-the-stream


I’m not going to lie. There have been times when I would like nothing more than to stick my tongue out at my daughter and say, “I know you are, but what am I?” For the most part, I can accurately report, I do not stoop to such levels…for the most part – certainly never when she is in hearing or seeing distance.

There are the times, however, when I catch myself going in circles with an eight year old before I stop and remind myself that I am the adult in this relationship. I’m pretty sure every parent feels that way at times, at least my friends have admitted to this – though I’m not beyond considering I simply have friends who are as immature as I am.

BUT! For the sake of this post, I’m going to assume everyone knows what I’m talking about. Kids have a way of bringing you to your knees, enraging you just before melting you, and, like a Jedi Master, drawing you deep into conversations you never intended to have, before you finally snap out of it and think, “wait a minute, why am I even discussing this? I said ‘no’ five minutes ago.”

One frustrating parenting challenge is the challenge to filter the words that cross the threshold of your lips. This can be one of the hardest obstacles, a dilemma that, on more than one occasion, has kept me up at night. That is what this poem explores.

 

What To Say?

I look down at you, and see this person to mold

And I’m struck by the weight of the treasure I hold;

a soul…

A life entrusted to me

to love, cherish, comfort, and lead

The weight,

it’s insurmountably great

But this burden I would not trade for another,

this load, this strain, this worry of a mother

Looking at you, love shines back at me

uninhibited, undeserved, unguarded… free

Unfortunately it’s not always to be

 you soon will learn the truth about me

I’m human

 I’m flawed

 I’m no hero to you

But I stand by this promise, to always speak truth

“Mommy, how come Daddy doesn’t live here, too?”

Oh, that

I’ve promised not to lie, but you’re three, not thirty

So how do I say it, all the nitty, gritty, dirty

details of our failed attempts at “together”

 of how we couldn’t make it months, much less forever…

That’s right, I don’t

 because you are only three

and it’s not your job to be:

a middle man, informant, spy or weapon

and I will not place minefields at your feet to step in…

So regardless of the things I believe about him,

 I will not defame, berate, or cast purposeful shame upon him.

“Sometimes, baby, mommies and daddies don’t live together.”

And the truth about that is…

I never considered it would negatively affect you,

or that you’d miss a life that you never even knew

But you do

And that’s heartbreaking, confusing,  feels impossible to navigate,

And as often as I fail to show it, I do see the weight

of the baggage you carry that him and I placed there

and I’m sorry you have that burden to bare

So sorry.

And beyond the obstacles for families in our position

come the obstacles common to children with your condition

Overabundance of attitude

 

For me this is annoying and quite hard to combat

especially now that you’re eight, you’re smart, and you are all that.

So when I say,

“Clean your room, feed the dog, do your homework, don’t smack”

You look at me, and You. Talk. Back.

 

“You never feed the dog, your room’s not so clean either,

You were in school forever ago, you don’t know what it’s like to be there

You’re lucky you’re not me!”

Lucky you say? With your chin sticking out and your fist in your hip

Honey, you’ll be lucky if I don’t lose my— temper

I take a deep breath, count to three, then…

“Girl, close your mouth, look at me, and listen.

I’m glad you know how to speak your mind, but mind how you speak it

use your mind and let it act as a spigot

to stop the flow of uncontrolled words

pouring fourth from your mouth like a flock of birds

escaping a cage, and once they’re out that is it

and no amount of backpedaling can change it

So when you speak to me, you do it with respect

and know that from me you can expect

to be spoken to as an individual with opinions

ones I’ll consider with honest intentions

and not just pretending to care under false pretensions.”

“Mama, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Of course you don’t, baby.”

There’s so much you don’t understand. Like bills and fees, unexpected needs,

like the need for a new car, since ours barley clings

to life support

but I can’t let her go yet, she still has to transport

me to the job that, well, I haven’t yet found…

So I sit hour after hour scrolling down the screen

submitting resume after resume, yet never being seen

by the person with the power to make this hope to which I cling

a reality

And even if I show up, like they recommend

I’m allowed to speak with no one but that helpful admin

who points to a computer with a pasted on smile,

says, “You can submit your application online so we’ll have it on file.”

I need a job!

“Mom, you should be a doctor.”

Yes, I should be, with my behavioral science degree

I sigh as I drag my feet

to your room, and place a kiss on your cheek

And you’re lying there with a smile,

eyes understanding without really understanding why I’m standing

hunched over, worn down, with, at best, a weary smile

Your hand pats your pillow, “Mama, lay your head here for a while?”

So I do.

And I’m showered with butterfly-soft kisses from a tiny pair lips

While one hand pats my hair and the other one slips

into my hand to weave your fingers with mine

and the pats on my head start to beat in time

with my heart and my soul, to rejuvenate, renew

and it comes down to this, I’ll take it all for you…

the exhaustion, the pain, the stabbing in my brain

the unending questions and those moments I’m insane

all if it, over and over again

“I love you, baby.”

“I love you more.”

And I can see in your eyes that you believe it is true,

“Baby girl, if you only knew…”

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