on children

I am a big fan of Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer. Recently, I went searching for his passage on children, which I remember my mom had clipped to a picture of her own three children in the dining room of my childhood home.

Growing up, my dad would tickle my siblings and I, and when we screamed in delight, “Stop, stop, stop!” He would tease, “But this is my leg! I can do whatever I want with it!” I’ve heard similar statements from my husband when my stepson protests something or another, “But Daddy made you, you need to listen to me!” Now that I have given birth to my first, I understand how these men, and many other parents, may feel. It is powerful to know that you created another human being and easy to feel as if this human being belongs to you. After all, we brought them into this crazy world and we carry the heavy responsibility for teaching them how to navigate through this complicated maze we call “life.”

Which is why I think the following passage from Khalil Gibran’s book, The Prophet, is valuable for all parents and future parents to read and remember as we also navigate through this complex job we call “parenting.”

Children Chapter IV

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”

And he said: 
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.

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