Roses are red, violets are blue, but there is precious little poetry in the day-to-day work of raising kids. It’s often difficult to reconcile the sensitive, soaring beauty of poetry with late-night feedings, poopy diapers, and especially teenagerhood. Of course, the truth is that even the most mundane drudgery of childrearing is punctuated by soul-rejuvenating moments and memories, which is why the world isn’t populated entirely by only children.
As much as modern parents share through Instagram or on their Facebook page, we tend to favor photos. A picture is worth a thousand words and who doesn’t love pics of little kids, especially your kids. But, photos offer only an instant and rarely do we use pictures to record those daily chores that make up so much of life nor do pictures capture our emotional state beyond just a single moment — for better or worse.
It’s easy to imagine that my wife and I didn’t take photos of us changing diapers because it ultimately would have been a picture of poop — a bit awkward to share on Facebook. I recently shared the importance of diaper changing time with another blogger and explained how diaper changing time was so important to me because it was one of those early one-on-one opportunities for me to get to know my children’s personalities. I have no pictures of those moments, but I did try to leave myself reminders of those unexpectedly playful times. I like to think that I’m the only person ever to write a Shakespearean sonnet inspired by a child’s poopy diaper. (It’s at the bottom, if you’re interested)
True that the reality of raising kids doesn’t always lend itself to quiet moments of clarity conducive to writing poetry. However, over the years the work of brilliant poets has helped me remember and even better understand my own emotions during complicated moments in parenting, like the thrilling angst of a child entering middle school that Sharon Olds captures in “The Month of June: 13 ½.”
Some of my favorite parenting experiences are when my daughters and I share poetry. Shel Silverstein is an institution in our house, and I’m still incapable of reading “The Giving Tree” with a dry eye. As my girls have grown, so has our shared poetic library through books like the Billy Collins curated anthology “Poetry 180,” which offers a new poem for every day of the school year.
Poetry is a critical part of preserving emotional snapshots, but it also creates a shared emotional vocabulary that’s often difficult to develop and preserve — especially as kids get older. You don’t have to be a poet to be a parent, but every family can benefit from poetic parenting.
I’m always on the lookout for great poetry. Got any to share?
“Honey, the baby is poopy,” she says.
The condemned trudges toward his date with fate,
The oozing gallows where wafting death stays,
Tasting in his throat the lunch he just ate.
Perhaps, a bit overly dramatic?
Sisyphus, then, a full diaper his foil.
Zeus casting him punishment ironic,
Endless diapers a never ending roil.
But, Sisyphus missed a smile and beam,
The little one knows her daddy loves her.
Eternity shortens with powder and cream,
Snuggles quell all burden of a full diaper.
Love, care, and poop mark the best kind of start,
He goes to wash his hands with warmth in his heart.