By Ina Hughes
Charlotte, North Carolina

We are responsible for children

who put chocolate fingers everywhere,
who like to be tickled,
who stomp puddles and ruin their new pants,
who sneak popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.
And we are responsible for those

who stare at photographers
from behind broken windows,
who canít bound down the street
in a new pair of sneakers,
who never ďcounted potatoesĒ,
who are born in places we wouldnít be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.

We are responsible for children

who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
who sleep with the dog and bury the goldfish,
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
who cover themselves with band-aids and sing off-key,
who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,
who slurp their soup.

And we are responsible for those

who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag after them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who canít find any bread to steal,
who donít have any rooms to clean up,
whose pictures arenít on anyoneís dresser,
whose monsters are real.

We are responsible for children

who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
who like ghost stories,
who shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub,
who get visits from the tooth fairy,
who donít like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
who squirm in church and scream in the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at
and whose smiles can make us cry.

We are responsible for those

whose nightmares come in the daytime,
who will eat anything,
who have never seen a dentist,
who arenít spoiled by anybody,
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
who live and move but have no being.

We are responsible for children who want to be carried
and for those who must be,

For those we never give up on
and for those who donít get a second chance, or even a first.

For those we smother with love
and for those who will grab the hand
of anybody kind enough to offer it.