Thursday, April 5, 2012

Kahlil Gibran: On Children

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.


This poem. This poem resonates with me so deeply. It's hard to articulate what gets me every time about this poem. There's the part about children being "Life's longing for itself." I am astounded when I think about a simple sperm and egg coming together to create an entire being that continues to grow into a walking, talking, independent person.

And there's just the overwhelming message that our children are who they are. They are their own seeds that already contain everything within them. As parents, our job is to provide the right environment--the nutrient-rich soil, sun, water, and oxygen--so that they can sprout and unfold and grow into their fullest potential. We cannot determine that potential, nor should we try to steer it; we should simply help them uncover who they are and who they want to be.

It's the selflessness of parenting that gets me every time, too. The image of being bent so that my child can shoot forth into the world is the perfect metaphor for the way parenthood feels to me.

I just felt compelled to share this poem--as much for you as for me--so that I can continue to hold these truths in my heart

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Lene said...

It is so beautiful it made me cry! Thank you for sharing, Sara!

Catoctin Mountain Mama said...

What an exquisite poem! A copy of this is going up on the wall in my bedroom. I particularly loved the lines...

"They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you"

These are important sentiments that are so easy for parents to forget. I appreciate you posting this...thank you!

Jules said...

This has always been one of my favorites! LOVE Kahlil Gibran. We actually read another of his writings at our wedding- a quote from The Prophet: 'Marriage' that begins: “Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls."

Such a gifted visionary, that one!

Kristy said...

Amazing poem! Thanks for sharing!

emily said...

oh my. this poem. thank you!

Julia said...

Beautiful! My favorite parts: "You may house their bodies but not their souls" and "you are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth". What a valuable thought, that your child is not your child, but actually his/her own unique self, and instead of trying to contain that, he calls us to give them the momentum to shoot off in their own directions... thanks for sharing! This made me smile.

Riss said...

This is absolutely one of my favorite poems. There is something so..TRUE about it. I wrote about it on my own blog a while back...I'm new to yours and loving it!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Riss! I know; I keep coming back to it every couple days. It feels like it's a lesson I need to fully internalize. Henry really does feel like he is his own person. Honestly, it's always felt that way. When he was born, I felt like there was an adjustment period when I had to recalibrate who I thought he was (since I had spent nine months thinking that I was getting to know him). But when he came out, he really was his own person, separate from who I thought he was. It's a surreal experience, especially because I've always been more on the "nurture" end of the "nature v. nurture" continuum.

Faye said...

I wish more parents in the world understood this poem, and the responsibilities they undertake when they conceive...

Celeste said...

I love this poem. Jason Mraz has set these words from Khalil Gibran to music in his "God Moves Through You." Have you heard it?

I've been checking in on your blog updates, and hope you, Matt, and Henry are well! I love reading your thoughts. :)

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