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I had an educational therapist tell me to try and think of my girls as foreign exchange students. This was in service of letting go a little bit, and not having every issue be a referendum on my children’s character and by extension my own moral character. She said our daughters are in my husband’s and my care for a limited period of time and we are here to teach, nurture and guide them to flight. As parents we are caretakers really, not creators. It reminded me of the Khalil Gibran poem about parents really just being the stewards of their children.
“On Children” is beautiful to read, but also check this out: Sweet Honey in the Rock, the Grammy award-winning African American female ensemble put it to music and it’s fantastic.
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.
This brings tears to my eyes and inspires me every time I read it. The idea of our children being arrows sent forth into the world by God (or the universe or whatever you choose) frees me to celebrate their autonomy. We are just the bows by which the arrows are sent. To let my bending in God’s hands be filled with gladness is an idea I should really put on sticky notes all over my house, because my ability to hold onto this concept has the lifespan of a fruit fly. I can see that looking at my daughters with frustration, disappointment and worry about their future is WAY out of adjustment. Yes, my daughters are self-involved, short sighted, and can be really mean to each other. But that is their CURRENT behavior. I am trying to remember that this doesn’t necessarily mean they will be those kinds of adults. They grew out of pooping in their pants, crying when they didn’t get their way, and not being able to eat a Popsicle without wearing it, so why don’t I give them some room, to figure out this stuff too. Not that I condone bad behavior, but I don’t condemn them for it.
Okay, now I am going to go make Inga and Svetlana, my two exchange students, clean their rooms and help me with dinner.