“The Kids Are All Right (How Are You?)”

Kids like
To tell you all the things
That your name,
Age,
Birthday,
Pets,
Blood type
Reminds them of, like someone
Else they know
Who shares the same traits
Alongside millions of others,
But the privilege of childhood
Is finding special meaning
In the incredibly mundane.
You are their
Captive, but
Not particularly captivated
Audience,
Redirecting with
Efficiency and enthusiasm,
Even though you have nothing to add
To the ecstatic proclamation that
So-and-so’s mom is also
Thirty-three,
Besides a shrug
And a smile.

Kids can’t
Clean up after themselves well,
Or make a straight line
To save their lives.
Instead,
They specialize in curved waves,
Resembling a sleepy,
Obese
Snake
That faithfully sheds its skin in the hallway
And then comes together again
Sheepishly
(Human nature)
When you
(Or someone else)
Yell after it to
Slither slower.

Kids need you to open their
Juice boxes,
Fruit cups,
Individually wrapped Goldfish crackers,
Granola bars,
To sharpen their pencils,
And zip,
Tie,
Locate
Their many pieces of outerwear
Before
And after
Recess.
You are their ever-present
Slayer of the dragons
Of hunger
And advanced motor skills.

Kids love
Running and screaming
Like horror movie victims
Given chase by the terrifying
Recess monster.
(Snow pants required, sometimes.)
They always want to know
Whether your tattoos hurt
And why you have your
Nose,
Cartilege
Upper lip
Pierced.
They will remember you excitedly when
You come again,
In two weeks or two months,
And what cut and color
Your hair was the last time
You were there,
With your backpack
With a recognizable cartoon character on it
(Yes, you like that show, too!),
And your quick, quasi-cursive
Handwriting
That they’ll all try to copy.

Kids like shortcuts,
But hate the sound that
Too-new chalk makes,
Though they love seeing
How messy they can make their hands
With the plethora of
Multi-colored writing utensils
They aren’t even supposed to touch.

Kids need Band-Aids
Too often,
Too many bathroom breaks
Because they get bored,
Hugs
(Always solicited, never outright offered),
Chaperones
To Art
And Music
And P.E.,
To the bus
Cafeteria,
Nurse,
Principal,
Into the classroom,
Out of the classroom,
And if a friend ‘needs’ to go
To the office,
By God,
Her three best friends
Have to go, too.

Kids need structure,
Though their compulsive need to buck the system
By sitting
Where they’re not supposed to,
Doing other students’ jobs,
Pretending
That aligning themselves
With the teacher means
They get out of
Reading
Or Writing
Or Math
Or Science,
In lieu of
Idle wandering,
Chit-chat,
Tattling
(“Is this what your real teacher expects you to do?”),
Is a really great disguise.

Kids need,
Want,
Love,
Hate,
Like
(Maybe, a little, kinda, I guess),
Eat,
Play,
Sing,
Learn,
Hear,
Think,
Feel,
Just add water fountains,
Rubber playground equipment,
Color-coded folders,
Assigned line spots,
And teachers on
Recess duty,
Lunch duty,
Who are there once
Every two weeks
Or two months,
In specials
Or libraries
Or computer labs,
In second grade,
Even when they were supposed to be
Assigned to fifth that day
(Just no lunch duty, please),
With their tattoos
(No, they don’t hurt anymore)
And piercings
And color-coded hair,
Ready to love
And like
And learn
Right along with them.
(They can have the scream-running to themselves, though.)

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