Kahlil Gibran, On Children, The Prophet
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”
And he said:
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.
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.
I often think of Kahlil Gibran’s poem “On Children” from his book of poetry, The Prophet. It reflects how I think of my girls. I first read The Prophet about two decades ago, between college and marriage, when I had time to do things like read Lebanese Poetry. I remember then thinking this all sounded so profound, but I utterly didn’t get the full meaning at the time. As I became a mom, I learned that these words are not only so profound, but dead on right. This poem leads me through many of my difficult times in parenting, especially as a mom living in open adoption.
I truly believe that my children belong to the universe and it is just my honor to be their mom or “…the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.” This is why one of my strongest beliefs is being upfront and honest with my girls about their adoption stories, my knowledge of their birth family, about my own life, and family of origin. I want my children to launch into the world with as much knowledge and history as they need, having a full tank of self esteem, self worth and self love.
This is also why, at age 5 ½, my oldest daughter knows 99% of her adoption story. Some of it is beautiful, some of it is ordinary, some of it is funny, some of it is tear-worthy, and some of it is downright ugly. The only parts that are left out are some of the more complex human emotions that she is too young to fully understand. But the facts, she has them all. They are her facts, not mine, not her birth families, just hers. She has 100% ownership of the facts as we know them. I guess that’s the funny thing about facts, different people hold different ones. Again, I can only tell what I know. My eldest’s birth family can tell what they know. Because this is my daughter’s story, which she owns, she calmly asked her birth mom as they snuggled on the couch one day, a question that had burned within her soul. As I stood looking on with my eyes full of tears, watching this tender moment, my daughter asked a question, a very important question, and was given an honest and loving answer. My daughter owns that answer. She owns the emotions, the tears, the love filled hug that followed.
Now that my daughter is old enough to start sharing her story with others, I am a bit freaked out. I wonder how her story will be received by others, will others get it, and will they get how important this story is to my oldest. Ok, deep breath, I am the bow, she is the arrow, the archer wants the arrow to go far….exhale. I just have to believe that her arrow will find its mark, that I as the bow am steady enough to shoot her in the right direction.