On Children Gibran
“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.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet 1923
This may be some of the best advice about relating to our children we have read. Parents are to be the steady or “stable bow.” Our children do not belong to us. They are the most important guests we will ever have in our home. Another piece of wisdom came to us from a counselor, Phyllis Raney, who led a parenting class at our church. She told us our job was to provide the best smorgasbord of possibilities of experiences for our children to taste from. What they choose, however, is up to them. We are to be the best possible providers of opportunities for them to experience, but we cannot control their decision as to what they become interested in.
We have three children and had busy lives as physicians at a children’s hospital. We wondered how to give quality individual time to each of our children. My mother-in-law gave me a book, Promises to Peter, by Charlie Shedd at the birth of our second child which made all the difference in our family. We read about taking each child out to dinner one night a week. They also could choose the restaurant, within reason. So, one night a week, usually Monday, was “date night” with one of our children. It was a gift to concentrate on letting one child tell his or her story and hear how much you loved him or her without distractions. I would so much like to hear from you about some parenting plans that made a difference.