For a Five-Year-Old by Fleur Adcock
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.
This poem is on my heart today, and, unfortunately, it's not because I helped one of my little people rescue something vulnerable. Actually, it was more the opposite. They were the snails, and I was stomping around in work boots. I was a butthead this morning. I wasn't even a cancer-butthead but a stayed-up-too-late-watching-House-of-Cards-butthead. I was rude. I was obnoxious. I was devoid of basic human kindness. If one of the boys had been as rude, I would have fired off one of the following,
Do you like it when people speak to you this way?
Are your words building others up or tearing them down?
A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Are you acting justly and loving mercy?
Followed eventually by,
Oh my gosh. Just pick up your work and go to another room. You've lost the privilege of hanging out with us right now.
Sometimes I need adult supervision - someone to remind me that we are kind to little boys.