One of my favorite poems is from the Lebanese-American poet, painter, and philosopher 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.
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.
The heartbreaking genius of Gibran floors me, especially considering he never had children of his own. Maybe childlessness gave him an objectivity that I can’t see. I don’t always have level-headed detachment when it comes to my children.
From the very beginning Gilbran hits us in the gut (your children are not your children). That first line evokes a visceral response in me (maybe you too). It just pokes at the emotional and spiritual instinct I have about my children. We chose (perhaps) to have them. We are conscientiously raising them, teaching them, loving them, unconditionally so. How could they not be our children?
But it’s true. They don’t belong to us. We don’t own them. We chose (or not) to have them, but we didn’t choose who they are. We didn’t design them. That’s the force greater than us.
Most importantly, this poem hits the topic that’s been on my mind during my reset – my mortality. He reminds me that I won’t be here forever, not even in my dreams.
We can care for them and offer them what we can, but we can’t make them think like us or believe like us. Which makes sense because they will need different thoughts and beliefs to navigate a world we can’t even foresee.
To my children: we are only together for a spell. You will move humanity a few feet farther than I’ll be able to see. You will have your own destiny and your own purpose separate and apart from me. You are my children but you are also children of the universe. I love you with my entire soul.