I Will If I Want To
-- For Marilee --
"I will if I want to!" our toddler declared,
And the set of her chin left us quite unprepared
To see what might ensue as she went undeterred.
Not "I may" or "I can," but "I WILL" were her words.
Every day several changes of outfits she chose,
Yet one day she emerged with an absence of clothes,
Running grinningly all through the house with a shout,
"Look at me! I am going to let it show out!"
"I want all the shoes out of the closet," she said,
Then she wore one white shoe with the other of red.
If she woke in the night, she might get fully dressed
So her waking-up tasks could be counted one less!
Despite hearing "No!" she'd directly proceed
To the dog's dish to drink and then, feeling the need,
She might empty the cupboard of all of its pans
Or consider a "nice place" to try out her crayons.
We would have been warned if her thoughts had been voiced:
"I will sort through this candy and pick out my choice."
"I will stomp in this puddle!" "I'll spit out these peas!"
"I will play in my bubble bath long as I please!"
At her bedtimes, we cuddled and coaxed and connived,
But nevertheless when the moment arrived
To lie down for the night, we were put to the test.
Her agenda at bedtime did not include rest.
Neither "nummy" to chew on nor friend teddy bear
Nor an extra night light nor a slow rocking chair
Did the trick. Then one night she stood holding the rail
In her crib. All our efforts were to no avail.
We left her then, thinking she'd cry off to sleep,
But she jumped from her crib in a somersault leap,
Going head over heels, she crashed down to the floor
But got up--and still crying--made right for her door.
She repeated her acrobat trick, and we knew
That the crib was her problem, and nothing would do
But install her right then in the big double bed.
"I will if I want to" had filled up her head.
One September when she was just six months past two,
We were settling in to a house in a new
Neighborhood, busy shuffling boxes around--
All at once, she was gone and nowhere to be found.
My shouts were in vain as I frantically tore
Down the road on a run. She'd gone off to explore
On her own, she explained, peddling fast on her trike,
"I'm taking my own walk to see what I like."
As her toddler age faded, her determination
Was often in conflict with cooperation.
A willful intent to take charge now appeared,
And she entered the era of "things commandeered."
As a pre-teen she knew if she wanted to quit
Her piano instruction, we'd probably hit
Her with reasons and deals to oppose her objection,
So she crafted a way to effect circumspection.
On a ride home just after a basketball game,
She was chattering on, "Susan's wearing the same
Jeans as I am--Those bleachers are so hard for sitting--
Oh--I called Mrs. Heaton and told her I'm quitting."
There were clubs needing leaders, school projects to plan;
There were speaking events and performance in band.
Then she shouldered the student direction of plays
And with clear-cut authority, managed the stage.
Fully armed with a penchant for taking control
And a truckload of paraphernalia, her goal
Was to transform a dorm room, to make it a tight
And efficient arrangement, both cozy and bright.
She'd build schedules, set deadlines, and fit in some fun;
She'd apply perseverance to get a job done.
She would lead an excursion, invent a surprise;
In a pinch she would stop and regroup, improvise.
From her college life on to a teaching career
If we listened to words beneath words, we might hear,
"I will implement, manage, control, and devise.
I will organize, undertake, plan, supervise."
Each new bud on a branch is wrapped tightly at first,
Bound up hard in itself, getting ready to burst.
Thus was "I" center-stage in her youthful intent,
But as blooming proceeded, her will would be bent.
More for others than self she now summons her drive,
And in perfectly capable manner, she strives
To take charge of events, make things happen, and lends
An embraceable brilliance to polish those ends.
There are some who'll acknowledge, they'll know right away,
And others--in time--who will probably say,
"Thanks a lot." And this poem, too, wants her to know
We applaud and approve: "Carry on!" "WILL it so!"