The other day, I met up with a friend for coffee. She was feeling footloose and fancy free because her kids were off on a cruise with her parents. Upon her telling me this, I immediately felt a mixture of envy and nausea. Obviously, I was envious of the free time she had on her hands, but the greater emotion was one of anxiety at the mere thought of having my kids travel without me.
I shared my feelings with her and her response truly moved me. I wish I could remember exactly what she said, but the basic message was this: She said that she had no illusions of her kids being "hers." She went on to say that it is her job to guide her children and protect their well-being, but ultimately they are their own people who need to have their own experiences.
It took me a moment to digest her words; I knew that her sentiments were profound and I wanted to fully integrate their significance. She mentioned a poem written by Kahlil Gibran about this very topic. I knew immediately that these words could be found in his book, The Prophet. My mother actually gave me this book years ago, but I had never taken the time to read it. Needless to say, I went home and found the book waiting patiently on my shelf.
On the inside cover my Mom had written this...
I read this book a long time ago. It has many good messages. You'll find the ones that speak to you.
Every page of this book offers incredible bits of wisdom. I'm not at all surprised that my Mom had the foresight to put it into my hands. Here are Kahlil Gibran's words on children...
On Children Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
It's perfectly true, our children are not ours. We do not own them and they owe nothing to us. We are deeply connected, yet at the same time, they are their own beings with unique lessons to learn. This pairing of parents to child is nothing short of miraculous!
I don't believe that this is random chance, nor do I believe that children are empty shells waiting to be molded like clay. While their life's lessons remain largely a mystery, we can be certain that our role must involve guiding and then letting go.
This can be an intensely challenging feat for a parent, but it is undoubtedly one of our greatest responsibilities.
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