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Your Children Are Not Your Children

I was introduced to the poem, “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran seven years ago by a friend who was the most intentional father I have ever met.  He was so in tune with his son, and their relationship was truly incredible to watch.  He shared this poem with me and I was so moved that I read it often as I navigated the journey of parenthood.  I still reflect on it often and even more so lately because I have a teenager and I often feel like I am throwing her to the wolves of life.  Social media, peers at school who will expose her to things I would rather she never be exposed to, and the hardships that come with being a teenager.  This poem gives me comfort as a parent and remains a guiding force for me today, so much in fact that it inspired the name of my company, Crossing Arrows.

The heartbreaking wisdom of Gibran amazes me, especially considering he never had children of his own.  I trust being childless gave him an objectivity that made it possible to see the truth in his words.  
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.

The first line evokes an instinctive response in most of us as parents.  As parents, we feel an emotional and spiritual instinct to care for our children.  We throw every ounce of our energy into intentionally raising them, guiding them, loving them.  How can Gibran say they’re not our children?

Truth is, they aren’t.  They don’t “belong” to us.  They are entrusted to us to raise and love.  We may have conceived them or adopted them, but we did not choose who they are.  They were “designed” long before they were conceived.  
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.

Our children come with their own unique identity and personality.  Each is put on this earth in their own unique way to serve a purpose and as their “stable bow” we can love them and guide them, but we can’t make them think like us and we shouldn’t try because they were given their own thoughts and beliefs to navigate a life that we can’t even imagine.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

As parents, it is so tempting to want to shelter our kids and “hover” and make sure our kids never experience pain or heartache, but it is in fact the pain and heartache, the experiences, that mold them into who they are.  As parents, we help navigate them through their pain and give them a shoulder to cry on.  I believe in a God that loves our children far more than we can ever hope or imagine to love them ourselves and I believe it is important for us to know and understand that although we are entrusted to guide and love our children, it is God who knows our inadequacies as parents and makes up for the things we do wrong.  He satisfies the needs that we do not meet for our children.  We cannot be there every moment of our children’s lives…although I know we wish we could, so it is a force much greater than ourselves who is – God, nature, whatever you believe. 

My belief is God and I know He is there when my daughters’ stand at the great crossroads between right and wrong.  We can do our best as parents, but we all fail…miserably at times and that’s okay, because the outcome of our children’s lives doesn’t rest solely in our hands…they rest securely in the hands of their Creator, in the hands of other’s who influence their lives.  
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.

I believe as parents, we feel this bending every day.  The bending is stronger during different seasons of our life, but bending nonetheless.  The closer we are to sending our children out into the world, the further we must bend.  We are the stable bow for our children, but we cannot direct the paths of our arrows once we send them forth so we must do what we can to prepare them for their journey.

I love the analogy that Gibran uses to illustrate the pain we experience in our “bending” as parents.  The pain serves a great purpose.
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.

We and our children are loved deeply by the Divine and if we allow ourselves to be bent as parents and trust that we can only do so much for our children and everything else we must rest securely in the hands of their Creator, then they will grow up to be the self-sufficient, kind, generous humans that we desire for them to be. 

This is so much easier said than done.  But our children…the living arrows…are unique and have their own destiny and their own purpose separate from our own. 

Our children are not really our children at all, so I encourage you to be the stable bow that your “arrows” need you to be.


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