! ! As Parents To Our Parents - Poem by Michael Shepherd
They never teach you this at school;
they'll try to teach you reading, writing, 'rithmetic
in their own instructed ways;
but now, if anyone suggested it, there'd be howls
about the impertinence, the interference,
the rights, the dangers of this and that -
but all the same, they never teach you:
how to get on with your parents.
Oh there are books and books and books
telling your parents how to look after you, but hey!
there are two parties here! Mom and Dad
can ask their own parents (sometimes - because they
were in the same situation as you are now and so,
reckon they can do a better job...) but
who can you, ask?
Philip Larkin told us memorably that
'they f*** you up, your Mum and Dad',
which may not be the case for all of us;
Hindus have their own stern answer to this question:
you chose them, in effect, as the result
of your behaviour in your previous life...so there,
work with that, kiddo, could be
the making of you...stop blaming it all on them!
So there you are, in this heated cauldron of love and hate, or
like sharp stones shaken in this bag called family
until the rough edges wear (each other) away and
those smooth round pebbles roll out to the world...
but perhaps a little help wouldn't hurt?
I was exactly four and a half when I told the truth about something,
since I didn't know any other way; and as my parents' voices
rose in argument about 'knowing what was best for me',
(I remember the moment now, so clear) I turned my back
on this so painful sound, faced the 'wireless' on the chest of drawers,
and decided there and then
that grown-ups made such a fuss when you told the truth
that it would be better not to - at least, until
they grew up a bit... and there, went half a lifetime
of prevarication, dodging the question, fantasy: never tell the truth
until you're sure they really, really want to hear it...
Then when I was eleven or thereabouts
(and again, I remember exactly where I was standing
at the time - the bottom of the stairs)
the solemn thought 'entered my head':
that in some way I knew but couldn't quite explain,
I was in the position, had some duty,
to take care, in some thoughtful way, of the minds of those
But they didn't teach that at my school.
love, I knew all about; but
parents? Aren't they strange? They try so hard, too...
and no, I don 't need 'counselling', thanks -
I'd rather keep it in the family. All I'm asking
is, a few lessons, maybe? I'd even do
XXX love you both XXX
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