Parents and Children

Kahlil 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.

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.

Wise parents accept their responsibility to evolve as human beings and their sacred duty to create the conditions for growth for their children.  The freedom to become ourselves that we want from our own parents, we must give to our children. We must not ask them to live our unlived lives; we must live the lives we want for ourselves. If we are afraid to grow, we will pass our inability to risk to our children. If we seek out our own development, we will pass that model on to our children.

There comes a time in life when our children leave us. They are supposed to leave. If they didn’t it would mean we did not give them the inner capabilities to care for themselves. If we have done our work well, we will have supported the uniqueness and authenticity of each child, and they will be ready to move on into another stage of life.

Parents must be responsible for themselves after the children are gone; that is our job. The children’s task is to find their own way in life with the foundation their parents gave them without the burden of taking care of their parents─emotionally or materially. Letting go is necessary for parent and child alike as relationships change.  Parents and children say goodbye to the various stages in their relationships — not to their love for one another.

As our children compose their own lives, we can recreate our lives over and over again. We will model how to live for our children at each stage of life and we may well teach them how to die. Hopefully we will live full and authentic lives with high ethical standards for ourselves that our grown children will see and emulate. We  can delight in seeing the more mature children who come to visit us.

As children gain their own lives and their own histories, the mature ones will see their parents less as idealized gods and more as imperfect human beings each taking or refusing their own journey in life, just like them. Children, aware of their own imperfections as people and parents, will grow more compassionate toward their parents and will forgive their shortcomings — real, imagined, exaggerated, and sometimes contrived by others. Courageous and authentic parents will be revered and respected by insightful adult children.

This is hard work. Tough love is required. Some suffering along the way is to be expected. We–parents and children–will have disappointments. We go boldly forward each step of the way with full knowledge of our imperfections as people and as mothers, fathers, and children.

This is to live.

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