My most recent post, "Control", brought me back to a poem I wrote months ago and re-discovered while looking through my notebooks. I decided to include it here because it seems to fit thematically with ideas I wrote about in that essay. Originally, this was an exercise suggested by one of my writing group friends but I've forgotten the intention. It ended up being a tongue-in-cheek prose poem about weeds and, well, I don't need to tell you. Anyway, lately I'm observing more and more often how my children, my sisters' and brothers' children and a few of my friends' children, are making their own choices at still-tender ages without any input from their parents. It's a bit of a shock when it first happens, when a son or daughter says, "I'm getting a tattoo" or "I'm quitting school" or "I've signed up to join the Army."
There are days we wonder if we could have done anything differently so that the outcome might be more in line with our values and our dreams for their futures. Recently, Louie CK, a popular comedian, was quoted as saying, "I'm not raising children; I'm raising the grown-ups they're going to be someday." It's an idea worthy of remembering while our kids are still pliable.
Ultimately, all we can do is our best in that endeavor. All we can do is what we are capable of doing. At some point, it's simply time to get out of the way, let them make their mistakes and recognize that once they are under the illusion they have reached adulthood, our instructions fly out the window, at least until that joyful day when they miraculously come back home to say, "You taught me well." While we're hanging around waiting for that to happen, it's all we can do to stay sane. There is the sudden recall from 1973 of the policeman shining his flashlight into the back seat as we scrambled to put on our clothes; of sitting in the back of the ninth grade science teacher's classroom smoking pot; of barely making it home after a night of bar hopping after college. We're on the other side of it now, wondering why they won't listen to us, especially once we've bared our souls, telling the stories in which we are the main characters just so we can prove we were young and stupid once too.
The bottom line is this: Control is mostly an illusion. The sooner you admit it, the better off you'll be. Just ask the weeds in your garden.
Far be it from me to criticize, but I must say,
If only the flowers in the garden had the same tenacity of weeds,
the unflagging determination of the chervil,
for example, with its maddening insistence
on poking through six layers of mulch,
or the haughty giant foxtail, brazen in its forced juxtaposition
with my brilliant- green lawn.
If only the flowers I planted would fight for their rightful places
in the curves of my beds, not politely stand aside,
as if to say “Welcome!” as the bull thistle lives up to its name.
Perhaps the purple dead nettle has not understood
the animosity of my spade when I punched
the soil with vehement objection
and flung its brother onto the pile, which I started just last week.
Even the thick black fabric tightly woven
and placed carefully around the mailbox post fails me,
inviting nature’s junk, incongruous as an old tire
sitting among the gladiolas.
I am considering waving the white flag of defeat,
retiring the garden tools having fought the good fight.
I am tired.
Besides, what beauty there is in wildness,
in the adorable chickweed bowing and scraping under
And let us not forget the butter-yellow dandelion,
gathered in chubby little hands, presented
in loving gesture for placement in the Mason jar
in the middle of the kitchen table.