The Ancient Poem for Parents
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 powerful poem was written a century ago by the beloved Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran, known as “The Prophet.” These wise words are still powerful today. We cannot own our children. We cannot make them do what we want them to do. We cannot make them just like us. We can love, listen, and learn from them. We can honor and respect them and ask that they do the same for us. But we cannot OWN them. Not with discipline, not with custody arrangements, not with threats, promises, reasoning, pleading, consequences, punishments, or rewards. We can love them and offer our support. We can influence them with our words and even more with our example. But they are truly ours only a very short time, and then, very, very soon, we must begin to release our protective hold on them. Let your children blossom into the flourishing plants they were born to be. And don’t forget to tend to the garden in your own soul, for you were meant to be here and are just as loved as they are.
—Marian Camden, Psy.D.