Monday, June 13, 2011

Grow Up Not to Be a Bird

For Audrey & Emma

On the fence rail tonight the cat stalked,
embarrassingly outnumbered by the
robins, grackles, wrens, and mourning doves

upon whose property the tabby had trespassed.
So defied he walked, strolled, no really, tiptoed
like a Tchaikovsky ballerina along the rail,

clearly bothered but not perturbed. You could
grow up to be that cat, but don’t. Those same
birds and that same cat and all the progeny

thereof that came before and after don’t add up
to any of their sires’ expectations. The secret of
parenting is probably to not try too hard to make

them like you. Not “like” you, as in think you’re a
really groovy person, but “like” you as in “as you are,”
Don’t try too hard to make them as you are.

Don’t try too hard to do that because you’ll
more or less always be up against both the
spouse who imposes his or her own perspective

on the situation, and also the child herself,
who more or less wants nothing to do with
either of you. Therein is the curse of adulthood,

(of which I would warn you, but can provide
compelling evidence that you will forget this
warning just shortly before it becomes useful).

Don’t be the bird. Don’t be the cat.
Think of the wind first, and the fence,
the shade of the tree that covers both,

the shade and the light that cuts around it,
the warmth that wraps everything inside until,
more or less you have no choice but to

succumb to your own present beauty. But
love us still because we love you,
in spite of our bird-like qualities.

--M. Bartels, June 2011

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