Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ogden Nash on Parent - Kid Relations

In honor of Ogden Nash's 108th birthaversary, here is the non-rhyming, yet very funny introduction to Parents Keep Out. Subtitled 'Elderly Poems for Youngerly Readers. A 49 year old Nash writes how delighted he is to discover that kids can relate to his poems - the ones written about the foibles of the adult world. Nash muses that perhaps the way to bridge the great inter-generational communication divide is for parents to laugh at themselves in front of their children.


Since parents can't keep out of anything, I resignedly

address these words to them. Many parents will find that

they have read some of the verses in previous books of

mine. I shall not apologize. Anybody who has read previous

books of mine is a trespasser in this one, which has been

compiled for a younger generation. I do not regard it as a

children's book, however; I simply hope it is a book that

anyone born less than fourteen or fifteen years ago may

enjoy. I have written a lot of verses about children, but

they are of no interest to children, as they were written for

parents; on the other hand I have been pleased to discover

that some of the pieces dealing with the aberrations

and anomalies of the adult world have found favor here

and there among the kids. This makes me very proud;

indeed at such times I feel like the cryptographer who has

cracked the code, or the first man to reach the moon,

because, in my experience, full communication between the

generations simply doesn't exist. There is a curtain between

the mind of the child and the mind of the parent

as opaque as any between the mind of the Occidental and

the mind of the Russian or the Chinese. Words may be

interchanged, but they do not mean the same thing to one

as to the other; the language is purely diplomatic - or

undiplomatic - and the final understanding

is about equal to that achieved by diplomats.

Of course it may be that if the kids do

like any of these verses it is for the very reason that

the Kremlin is gratified by any sign of the collapse of

capitalism; watchful young eyes may here perceive indications

of the breakup of the old people's world. Nevertheless,

flushed by a few minor successes among my juniors, I have

risked hastening the revolution by gathering for them from

my past this potpourri of foolish jokes, anecdotes, fables,

and other trivia, embellished with rhymes and conclusions

both true and false. Perhaps for the very reason that this

particular collection is not calculated, dear parents who

have not kept out, to present us as the omniscient and

infallible paragons they think we think we are, it may

persuade our young to treat us more gently when they

take over. God willing, it may even persuade a

disreputable handful that they are as silly as we.

O. N.

Copyright © by Linell Nash Smith and Isabel Nash Eberstadt.

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