Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Poetic parenting...

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me -
Anything can be happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

~ Shel Silverstein

It's funny, I was just reading poems to the kiddo from my beloved, old copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends, and the above poem is one that I had marked as a possible quote for my senior year high school yearbook page. (I went with a few other, more obscure quotes instead - Dylan Thomas and David Bowie if I recall... I'd have to dig out my yearbook to get the exact ones.) Back then, I took this poem to be a "don't let the Man hold you back" sort of euphemistic fist-shaking, all full as I was of teenage know-it-all-ness and rebellion. (Side note: I was utterly convinced at the age of 16-17 that I knew it ALL. I was so, so sure of this. Now, at 36-37, all I'm sure of is exactly how much I don't know. *sigh*) Now, when I reread this poem for the first time in a while, I see it much differently than I did with my arrogantly teenaged eyes. Now, it speaks more to me as a parent, (which, granted, I wasn't yet, back then) and it strikes a totally different chord reading it as a mother.

Some days, it feels like all the parenting I do amounts to is a steady stream of NO, DON'T, SHOULDN'T and MUSTN'T... I don't particularly like those days (does anyone?) but it has to be done. It can be wearying, I imagine for both of us - I don't like sounding like the broken record (um, skipping CD? what is the 21st century equivalent for that particular expression?) and I'm pretty sure the kiddo doesn't like hearing it over and over again. It is a big part of parenting, though, to teach the rules and to make sure that they are followed. All those mustn'ts and shouldn'ts have their reasons, and those reasons are valid. (We MUSTN'T cross the street without looking both ways... We SHOULDN'T eat dinner before washing our hands...)

Now, for me as a mother, I try to be sure that the MUSTN'Ts are balanced with the ANYTHING CAN BEs. I want to be sure to nurture the kiddo's hopes and dreams, to encourage her optimism and confidence. I want to inspire her as much as keep her safe and "in line" though some days that is easier than others.....

The kiddo didn't really have much of an opinion one way or the other on this one. She much preferred Dirty Dan, the world's Dirtiest Man, who never has taken a shower. And for the record, her favorite Silverstein work is A Giraffe and a Half (at least so far in her life), which she's had memorized since she was three.

I'll leave you with one more Silverstein poem out of A Light in the Attic, and then I'm taking the kiddo up to the pool for a swim while the sun is still shining and the rain clouds are gone for a while (it's been one rainy, stormy summer here):

Here Comes

Here comes summer,
Here comes summer,
Chirping robin, budding rose.
Here comes summer,
Here comes summer,
Gentle showers, summer clothes.
Here comes summer,
Here comes summer -
Whoosh - shiver - there it goes.

No comments: