my last name is Kinder, and it is German,
in case you were curious, and
German is my least favorite of the languages,
it just always sounds so harsh.
it’s unbecoming to spend life angry,
life is better suited for arts and crafts,
and if our anger was currency, it’d be rusty pennies.
when our pockets all fill up so fast,
it gets heavy— taxing, tedious, tiresome— and it gets loud
to carry around so much loose change,
just jangling like little gongs.
I think that if I ever learn to speak German
I’ll speak it in a quite pleasant tone.
Kinder translates to “child” or “children,”
and “It’s Kinder, like kindergarten,”
is a phrase I say often
in regards to pronunciation,
a blooming garden of snotty little noses,
peeing their pants
and singing songs about inchworms.
a place where the kids with television sets for parents
teach the others how to swear like sailors
and how to insult with
the latest anatomical slang.
it is a shame that so many guardians
have antennas for ears and faces that shift hues.
it is so hard to know which shade is the proper one to color yourself in
when you’re five and there is no one nearby to ask,
when Big Bird and Elmo have stopped replying
and everyone else is just trying to sell you things.
it’s hard to learn morality
when what you need is
a paint-by-numbers and fresh set of watercolors,
but what you have is
a coloring book and box of broken crayons.
these kids contain Monet capacities
that are too often expressed in graffiti.
I joke that my name means that
I’ll either have too many children or never grow up,
and I cross my fingers in favor of the latter.
I cross them ‘til they’re white, ‘til my head feels light,
because raising children just sounds so damn terrifying.
it sounds like
folds of stretchy skin and sleepless nights,
it reeks of
soiled diapers and vomit, milky-white,
it tastes like
responsibility and maturity,
and it would involve a little growing up.
I do not have antenna ears or circuit veins,
and I do not believe in giving a noisy little box so much responsibility.
what I do believe in is
swing sets and songbooks and family dinners
bear hugs and bedtime stories and helping with homework
training wheels and in taking them off,
even though you know it will mean skinned knees and gravel removal.
and even though you know it will mean peroxide and cotton balls and gauze,
it will mean courage.
it will be worth it.
I believe in making chores into games and tree-climbing and silly song-writing.
I believe in kite-making and kite-flying and living room tenting,
and yes, in camping outdoors too.
If parenting was a presidential campaign,
and I decided to run,
I’d run on a platform of
cookie dough and themed parties and cake batter,
with pixie sticks and crazy straws for legs,
my first law would be
that mixing bowls and beaters must always be licked,
but we’d eat a lot of vegetables.
the only weapons allowed would be water balloons and sarcasm,
and all wars would be fought with tickling.
at rallies, we’d roll around in the mud,
and hell, if there’s a nasty drought,
we’ll build our own mud pit with dirt and a garden hose
like I did for my fifth birthday,
and we’ll shake our fists at the sky for its stingy behavior.
some things are worth the waste of water.
I believe in trips to libraries and to zoos and to history museums,
in teaching that quirky Christmas traditions
are better than extravagant gift-giving—
that greed is just exhausting,
and that memories will never collect dust.
I believe that violent games of spoons must be played ’til blood is drawn,
and they should be resumed once the band-aids are in place.
I believe in imaginary friends and in make believe and in playing dress up.
I believe in nicknaming over name calling,
in teaching kids about sex before their friends do,
and in a home that allows for question-asking,
with doors wide open and plenty of room
for the neighbor kids with talking box parents.
perhaps I might someday raise children
just so I can teach them that kind, considerate citizens
can still live free and child-like.
it maybe even sounds a little nice,
it maybe even sounds a little magical
if done right, but…
it probably should also involve a marriage,
which is equally terrifying.
I’d have to lose my last name,
the aforementioned cause for the waddling toddler curse,
but really, what’s so special about a name?
names are just strings of letters tied together with strands of DNA
just cords not cut at birth, but often severed in ceremonies.
perhaps painting a family portrait
with careful strokes and vivid watercolors
could be quite special,
a family that refuses to let the sun set on anger
and that goes to bed with pockets empty.
a family that knows that if anger was currency,
it’d be rusty pennies,
and pennies are just so heavy.
a family that’d rather
spend tokens of grace instead.
my last name is Kinder, and it is German,
in case you were curious.
it is a school uniform I did not choose, but can only wear
because a woman traded her Welsh wool for German once.
she plans to keep it for life,
though she too thinks the language sounds angry.
I’m only breathing because two people fell in love and
thought it might be fun to paint one of those portraits.
they thought it might be special,
thought the magic just might be worth
the maturity that’d be necessary to pull it off,
and maybe, just maybe, someday
I’ll think so too.
maybe, just maybe, someday
I’ll find myself wearing a new last name,
a new uniform,
its plaid pleats splattered
with the prettiest paint.