Permanent Marker

I feel like it’s too much to ask
to do all the right things
like floss and wear sunscreen and recycle
and pay bills on time
and not eat too many croissants
and not drive when you could walk
and show up on time

The long list of requirements
weighs on me
like the 10 commandments etched in stone
times 1,000 and strapped
onto my back
as if I am Moses’ sherpa

Yes, I know
I could put down
the freaking tablets
and give my aching shoulders
a rest
but I also know there would be
Consequences
because that’s how it works

Not to mention the rules
that aren’t even covered
in the 1,000 commandments
like don’t show up to a party empty-handed
and always send a card
and put something in the plate when it’s passed to you

Then there are the Big Rules
(not necessarily covered in the 1,000 commandments)
like raise your children to be good humans
and eat local and organic
and save money instead of spending it on stuff you want

Wait

Maybe I’m mixing them up
the order of importance
the gravity
confusing mandatory with
strongly encouraged
or optional

what if I knock all the rules
off the wall
and start over
now they are scattered across the floor
different fonts and colors and sizes
some in ALL CAPS
or bold
or italics
(no consistency whatsoever)
some I don’t even know who wrote them
or where they came from
but they are written
in permanent marker
nonetheless

© Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso
February 2020




Breath

Open the windows
I am sharing the air
with all beings
seen and unseen
we are exchanging molecules

We do not choose
who inhales what we exhale
whose breath we take in

Not knowing this
I will try to breathe peace to you
and love
even if I don’t know you
even if you don’t understand me

I remember we share the breath

© Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso
January 2020

that is not how I will use this sacred time

How you organize your life
is up to you

Your choices may bewilder me
but that’s on me

I may not understand what you smoke or why

how you learned to shoot

where you put your trust

who you worship

everything you are willing to sacrifice

But you offered me orange juice
and crackers

You made me laugh

You did not give up
(on me)

You never
turned me away

You may question my trips
through the drive-thru

My vague idea of bedtime

Nearly everything I allow my kids to do
and where I draw the line

You may think my priorities are sadly misguided

and that it’s embarrassing
that my heart so often shows up
naked
on my sleeve

You may judge me by my
worst day, my stupidest
mistake

Fair enough

I confess I don’t have a clue
what motivates you
why you don’t care
as much as I do
why it’s been so long
since I’ve seen you

I could spend far too long
trying to figure out

why it takes you so long
to open the door
after I knock

(as long as you let me in eventually)

why your religion contains so many rules

why you keep so many secrets

But that is not how I will use
this sacred time

© Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso, December 2019

That’s a Useful Talent

When we arrived
after an eight-hour drive
he ran in circles around the car
and the yard
eager to move his body

Inside he found some toys
in the back room
with his six-year-old sixth sense
and set up games for himself to play

He paged through a craft book
sticking post-it notes to 
every activity he wanted to try

He admired the sewing machine and 
said he wanted to learn to sew
“that’s a useful talent,” he said.

He helped set up a TV and 
its accessories and discussed
power tools with my cousin

Way past usual bedtime
he said he needed something else to eat
so I led him to the pantry
“they have a pantry?” he asked in awe
I pointed out crackers and fruit cups and applesauce
He backed into the pantry and closed the door

A few minutes later he emerged
after my cousin opened the door for him
He had been stuck
but evidently not alarmed
and emerged with a box of Reduced Fat Wheat Thins
which he brought into our bedroom
He ate crackers while reading to me the
nutrition facts and marketing ploys on the box
I tried to explain “less is more.”

Then we read an Elephant and Piggie book
I was Elephant
He was Piggie
We snuggled
and fell asleep

by Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso
October 2019

I Do Not Smell Like Cheese

Zeke turned to me this afternoon
from his position sprawled on the couch
watching Spider-Man cartoons
and asked if I knew what he did 
when he arrived in his classroom
this morning
on the first day
of first grade.

I asked what
and he said he cried
because he was feeling really shy.

I said I was sorry
that he had been so upset
and asked him what happened
when he started crying
he said the teacher came over
and talked to him
and made him feel better.

I asked what she said or did 
to make him feel better
but he didn’t remember. 

He said he only cried 
for twice the amount of time
it takes him to brush his teeth.

He said there’s no one 
he knows sitting at his table
but there is a boy who
speaks another language.

“What language does he speak?”
I asked
Zeke said, 
“A language I’ve never heard before.”

At least at recess Zeke got to play with Jack
his best kindergarten buddy
who is in a different class
and moving to Chicago soon anyway
they played hide and seek and Zeke said
Jack is really good at hiding.

Last night at bedtime
Zeke seemed relaxed
although he said he was nervous and excited
then he told me I smelled like cheese
and I said I had brushed my teeth and 
washed my hands and face
and hadn’t even eaten any cheese recently
he was not convinced
He was clutching his stuffed owl, named Even
I said, “maybe this owl smells like cheese!”

And he became deeply offended 
that I did not
call Even by his name
“Why did you say this owl?” he demanded
“You know his name!”

At which point I realized 
he was more upset than he had let on.

I had to leave the room to make sure
Zoe’s first day outfit was in the washing machine
and when I returned 
and climbed back up into the top bunk
to resume snuggling with Zeke
he began to weep.

He asked me if I could come in the classroom 
with him in the morning
even though he knew he was riding the bus
and I told him no, that wasn’t the plan
and he just cried
and wouldn’t speak
and wouldn’t answer my questions
just burying his face in Even.

Bus Stops and Blood Tests

I feel like about half
of my parenting challenges
are deciding when to
say to my children

Sometimes you have to be
tough and
brave and
stick it out
do hard things
be independent
you can do this
you got this

and when to say

It’s ok
you can take it easy
sit this one out
relax
skip this one
don’t worry about it
rest and
you can snuggle with me

There is
no formula
no equation
no guidebook

that tells me
which way to lean

I just have to
figure it out
over and over again
every
single
day

~Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso
August 2019