I had originally thought to title this poem “Slow-Motion Parenting” but it evolved into more than that. On the other hand, “learning” is a wonderful summary of the parenting experience, is it not?
when you realize you are NOT going to make it through bedtime.
The children move around you like squealing blurs,
words tumbling out too fast for your foggy brain to comprehend,
although the petulant tone is clear – there is whining involved.
It’s not that you don’t love them.
I know this.
I know that your exhausted limbs would leap,
and viciously defend,
if some dangerous intruder suddenly appeared,
to threaten them with harm more immediate
than the tooth decay you warn will come if they don’t
But when the danger is rather more camouflaged,
Not such a threat, really.
And you are
Much, much too tired to respond with any speed
to urgent, so-called needs.
The only speed you are capable of is
The frustrated words of rebuke leap from your tongue,
like burning sparks bursting from the fire
that has consumed all your last stores of energy,
leaving only a charcoal version of your self,
late victim of the parenting wars.
Until it’s finally done –
prayers (grudgingly) said,
and the open door is calling you out of the child-sized bed,
offering you the blissful release of solitude.
Until the darkness ushers forth the tearful story,
the friend who was mean,
the sense of rejection,
the frustration that he didn’t get his way.
And you learn again the awesome power of child tears,
like those of the phoenix,
restoring your charred heart to wholeness,
to the capacity to care, and nurture, and show love.
You almost cannot recognize the soft, calm voice,
that calls you back into this clear, and present moment.
It speaks of patience,
“Be quick to listen,
slow to anger.”
And you know you need this lesson most of all.
When you are so, so tired.