Today is my daughter’s twelfth birthday. I cannot believe it. There’s no need for you to experience all the usual platitudes about how quickly children turn into adults or the beastly parts of adolescence. We know, we know. They know, they know. We and they know everything and nothing.
So today I’m posting one of my own poems. It started as a litany exercise, really, and evolved into a list of advisable things.
There’s so much I want to help my daughter understand about the time of life she’s going through, and we do talk, a lot. In her birthday card, I’m giving her a copy of this gorgeous and vital essay by Casey Fleming.
And then there’s this poem, which I’m sharing with everyone else, too.
When you are given arbitrary instructions, take the nugget of common sense buried within them to heart.
When you have too many toys to play with, share all of them with anyone who needs them.
When the bread dough doesn’t rise, begin again once the sun is shining, remembering that flour and yeast are cheap.
When your pillows are expanding beneath you while you and your room remain the same size, take a deep breath and summon your inner peaceful goddess, the sleeping infant, the remembrance of time immemorial.
When you are given too many books to fill, pack them into a beautiful cabinet, all but one, and scribble your thoughts one page per day.
When you cannot stop sneezing, leave the house for an hour with your allergy medicine and a washed face, clean shirt, brushed-through hair.
When you burn your family’s dinner, know they still love you and will appreciate tomorrow’s feast all the more.
When the spiders come into the house, clear out the corners to give their webs room, and tell them the ground rules you’ve set. And know your wish has been granted.
When you cannot find your entrance into a poem, let other people talk around it on the periphery of your attention.
When the novel inside you is desperate to emerge but you have no time to write it out, make your passion part of your workday, even if just for half an hour.
When your father takes you to the rodeo, enjoy holding his hand between the games.
When you dream of me, be generous, please.
When you reach the end of your to-do list, revel in the glory of a blessing.
When you grow so wise you realize I am an imbecile, recognize this is a cycle, too.