12 December 2011

Your Children Are Not Your Children

Most nights, I find myself lying beside my daughter at her bedtime, soothing her to sleep. For, though she's a third grader, an eight year old, she still falls asleep best if she's snuggled right up next to me. Sometimes it takes longer than it should, and though I'm not allowed to turn on the light and read a book, she's unconcerned if I pick up my iPad and browse through email or Twitter or Google Reader or Facebook. And then she's asleep and I go back downstairs to pay bills or wrap Christmas presents or rearrange the dishes in the dishwasher.

Last night, I read two posts in a row, by two different people (as opposed to two posts by the same person), and was struck by an underlying similarity, and I thought "Emily should meet Julia; Julia needs to meet Emily". They're both very wise parents.


I have slowly come to accept that, work though I might, I’ll never understand how their amazing, remarkable brains work. The depths are for them to plumb alone. All I can do is hum along for the ride.


I inhaled sharply and let the thought sink in. I felt the overwhelming weight and piercing pain of it. And then I felt the freedom of it, too: It's not up to me. It is not up to me. For better or worse, the size of the problem was bigger than I could solve. I had to own the part I could own, and let go of the (bigger) part that I could not. And as I grasped this the train came in.

Emily ended her post with a YouTube clip of a Sweet Honey In The Rock song, a song that I've long known without knowing much about it. It's a setting of a bit of Khalil Gibran's The Prophet:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but they are not from you,
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.
You can give them your love but not your thoughts.
They have their own thoughts.
You can house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in a place of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You can strive to be like them, but you cannot make them just like you.

And really, without being too cloyingly maudlin or anything, isn't that just it? We can pat their backs as they fall asleep and help them learn long division and teach them to boil an egg, but they have their own thoughts and will do what they will.


Bibliomama said...

And if more people let themselves feel the truth and the pain and the freedom of it, how many deeply wounding schisms between parents and children might be avoided?

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios said...

I have two teenagers. You're preachin' to the choir here! They will do what they will do, and they will reap what they sow. Can't take the credit, won't take the blame either.

Mental P Mama said...

I received that Gibran quote the day my twins were born. I don't think there is a day that I don't read at least a word or two. I need them. The words. Not-so-much the 20-year-olds....

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

So true.

anymommy said...

I need to grab this tight and hold it right now.

leanne said...

Beautiful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and theirs.

Janet W said...

A lovely poem Maggie. Wise words.

MDTaz said...

Interesting. I wrote something last week that merited creating a new category for posts on my blog. It's called "Just Guests in my House."