Poetry Friday: For a Five-Year-Old

I always enjoy reading the Poetry Friday posts, but have never taken part! I saw Kimberley Moran was hosting this week and thought I would give it a go! You can read Kim's post and link your Poetry Friday post here.

Last spring, my son Alex, four at the time, was squishing ants while with a group of kids. I talked to him about how that was unkind and how the ants have families. I appealed to his conscience.  He took in my words and worked on convincing the other children, passionately defending the rights of the ants.  A few weeks later, at the Memorial Day Parade, Alex had the misfortune of sitting on an ant hive on the curb. Ants in his pants! He was not too fond of them after that!

I was reminded of that story while reading the poem "For a Five Year-Old" by Fleur Adcock. Alex is five now and this poem really resonated for me. It made me think of the role parents play in helping their children to become people of character, and the faith our children so innocently offer us. 

For a Five-Year-Old

A snail is climbing up the window-sill
Into your room, after a night of rain.
You call me in to see, and I explain
That it would be unkind to leave it there:
It might crawl to the floor; we must take care
That no one squashes it. You understand,
And carry it outside, with careful hand,
To eat a daffodil.

I see, then, that a kind of faith prevails:
Your gentleness is moulded still by words
From me, who have trapped mice and shot wild birds,
From me, who drowned your kittens, who betrayed
Your closest relatives, and who purveyed
The harshest kind of truth to many another.
But that is how things are: I am your mother,
And we are kind to snails.

-Fleur Adcock


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