“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 bow 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.”
—Kahlil Gibran, “On Children” from The Prophet
Gibran’s prose summarizes the “meta-view” of Essential Parenting.
Our children are aimed at a star of their full potential. Life has an intention, a gift for this world, and that gift is our child in their fullness. The primary nourishment and support our children need for this journey is love and security which, when present, set the stage for all forms of learning and maturation. And fortunately, life has endowed us as parents with all of the necessary tools we will need to assist them on their journey.
But the mystery is a mixed bag. The road will be littered with imperfections and mis-attunements as well. What twists and turns in our relationship, what “mistakes” will mysteriously produce perfect fruit for our children’s becoming? Which difficulties will lead to even deeper maturation?
“Your exact errors make a music that nobody hears.”
Take Home: Relax. There is a larger and wiser intelligence at work here. It exists inside of you — often emerging as intuition — and also moves the outer world, including the maturation of your child. Even as you become the “stronger, wiser, and more loving other” for your child, let yourself relax into a “stronger, wiser, and more loving other” that is Life itself. Stay present to what is appearing in the here and now. What is the deepest truth you can feel emerging right now? How does Love want to move you? Let the mystery of our nested relationship with the whole of life wash through your awareness and affect your everyday movements.
Try: Next time you are with your child look at them with the big picture in mind. While they are climbing up the ladder and preparing for another pass down the slide, try to envision them one year from now, three years from now, and five years from now. Keep extending the perspective until you see them saying “goodbye” to you as they head off to college. Feel their adult nature, what kind of person they might be as a 25-year-old, and particularly feel what gifts they might bring to this world. See them as a new father or mother. What is it like when you see your child, now an adult, occupying the same place you now occupy — an adult/parent trying to find their way in life?
Picture them saying goodbye to you as you lie on your deathbed, thanking you for all the love, confidence, and wisdom you provided them over the years. Even see them living their life beyond your death, becoming a middle-aged man or woman, and beyond that into old age.
Even as you stand arms outstretched to catch this child sliding down towards you, let the mysterious truth of this insight suffuse your body and mind. Let its impact on you bleed over into your interactions with your joyful, innocent toddler. They are on a lifelong journey fueled by the great mystery. Remembering this can help transform ordinary moments into a fullness of feeling often buried beneath our “to-do” list.
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