I was going to skip Poetry Friday today (yet again…) because we’ve been busy, and I’ve been away from the computer, with the Farm Curl (the kids are curling with Tom and two others), a birthday party that suddenly materialized for tomorrow, and writing 4H speeches, but then I saw that Karen Edmisten is hosting today, and I thought, pshaw, what’s one little poem?
The New York Times health column by Dr. Perri Klass earlier this week on the importance of manners learned and taught — and bad manners can be very bad for your health, especially once people figure you’re old enough to know better — put me in mind of the following poem, from Phyllis McGinley’s Stones from a Glass House (1946). Of course, anyone in a glass house, unless he or she writes as well as Miss McGinley, should probably be on their very best behavior…
The Velvet Hand
by Phyllis McGinley
I call that parent rash and wild
Who’d reason with a six-year child,
Believing little twigs are bent
By calm, considered argument.
In bandying words with progeny
There’s no percentage I can see,
And people who, imprudent, do so,
Will wonder how their troubles grew so.
Now underneath this tranquil roof
Where sounder theories have their proof,
Our life is sweet, our infants happy.
In quietude dwell Mom and Pappy.
We’ve sworn a stern, parental vow
That argument we won’t allow.
Brooking no juvenile excess here,
We say a simple No or Yes, here,
And then, when childish wails begin
We don’t debate.
We just give in.
* * *
I’ll second Dr. Lewin’s recommendation of Miss Manners’ Guide to Rearing Perfect Children by Judith Martin. Please. And thank you.