For those of you not in either the teaching or writing professions, you may not know that it is National Poetry Month. So, as I teacher, I try to make sure that I include my favorite poems and poets in my lesson plans to help do my part in celebrating the poetic works of others.

Because I teach small kids, there is no way in hell I would give them Sexton, Plath, or even Parker. But I do think they can not only understand, but relate to Langton Hughes. To me he is a universal poet. He is simple yet so profound. He states it as it is and only when you start really looking at his body of work, do you start to see beyond the raw talent and ripping emotions.

Yesterday in class I used the poem, “Mother to Son”. This poem means so many things to me. Not only is its message so simple and haunting, but also I relate to the mother in the poem.

For those of you unfamiliar with the poem, it is about a mother talking to her son. He is having some difficulty and he thinks he should just sit down and let the world swallow him up whole. Well, his mother has been through worse things than what he is going through right now, and she tells him to get up. She lets him know that life was never easy for her, but she still continues to fight every day. Right now, she wants him to start fighting.

One of the repeated lines is, “life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” I feel the same way. I have had my troubles as we all have had them. No one is a stranger to difficulty. Even the rich have their disconnects. But no matter what we are given, we need to continue on and keep climbing.

I also gave this poem to my son. I put it in his lunch one day along with some apple slices and cheeze-its. He was going through a rough time and I just wanted him to see himself in that poem. I wanted to show him that he is that son in the poem who was letting his life just wash over him and he wasn’t fighting anymore. I do understand being tired of fighting. I am getting that way myself right now. But, at that time, he was getting ready to sit down on the step and I couldn’t have that happen.

I would never say that my problems were more difficult then my son’s. I think if we were having a “pissing contest” to see who had it worse, it would be a draw. We had different difficulties. However we both were touched by them in the same way.

He thought it was time to sit down and I knew that it wasn’t even close to time for sitting down.

I don’t know what he thought about the poem. To my deep discredit, we never spoke about it or its message. The one thing I do know is that little munchkin is a sponge. I like to believe that maybe that poem stays with him. Maybe the message of getting up helped him push a bit more. I hope that knowing I was there, still climbing on and still fighting for my life and his, helped him see how much strength he has and how he can inspire strength in others. I also hope he saw how much he was, is, and will always be needed in this world.

For me, I need that reminder now. I need to reread that poem again and pound that message into my head. It needs to seep into my skin and drop like sweat from my brow. I haven’t had it easy, but I need to keep going.

In the end, I need to be a mother that both my son and daughter can look to and be proud of. They deserve nothing less than that from me.