Wendy Rainey

The Children Are Coming For Us

after e.e. cummings

We thought we were being so careful with the children,
driving them everywhere,
never letting them out of our sight.
Listening to the evening news
you would have thought there was a child abduction
every five minutes.
After two years as a nanny,
I joked that I wanted to roll them in bubble wrap
and hide them from the bogeyman.
Instead I dressed them in yoga pants
while they learned to walk,
scheduled classes and playdates
before they were out of diapers,
activated the V-chip before they could talk.
When I was caught in the sandbox
saying No to the children
a group of moms went online,
calling me a squelcher of ego,
a murderer of dreams.
I devoured every child rearing book
I could get my hands on.
Each new bestseller,
each new school of thought
contradicted the previous trend.
Baby sign language, Baby Einstein, Bringing Up Bébé.
And the kale wraps,
the edamame shakes,
the gluten free organic soy chips,
while on the sly
I was the nanny
with a Big Mac on her breath.

And now, when I drive by an elementary school
and see a line of SUVs wrapped around the block,
collecting and depositing their precious cargo,
I want to scream,
Set them free!
Let the children ride their bikes alone
down the middle of the street
and feel, as we did,
the wind whipping through their hair.
Let the rain fall on their faces and soak their clothes.
Let them trip into this puddle-wonderful world
and roll in its mud lusciousness.
They’ll scrape their knees on the cement,
but don’t run for a Band-Aid right away.
Let the children bleed just enough
to learn what pain can teach them.

Strawberry, I wasn’t lying
when I told you that you are a unique and precious flower.
Londyn and Kingdym, it’s good to be different.
But what I should have also told you
is that you are only one minnow
swimming among billions of minnows
in a sea of diminishing returns.
Your ordinariness
is probably the most profound
and lovable thing about you.

But lately when I catch wind of the latest internet pile-on,
it is your faces that appear in my dreams.
Seeking warmth in the glow of the computer screen,
you are hunched over your keyboards
like seniors at bingo night.
Pajama’d warriors of justice,
sensitivity readers
with your butt hurt,
and your porn,
and your anxiety disorders.

Before you come for me, kids,
before the big call-out
and the doxxing,
let’s go outside into the fresh air and sunshine
one last time.
I’ll set you free
in a puddle-luscious field
where it is always Spring.
You will always be young
and dancing with marbles
and running from piracies,
while the little lame bogeyman whistles


Wendy Rainey’s poetry has been published in Nerve Cowboy, Rusty Truck, Red Fez, and several other journals and anthologies. Her chapbook, GIRL ON THE HIGHWAY, was published by Picture Show Press (2019). She is a contributing poetry editor on Chiron Review.