What wondrous gift is this!
Reflecting on a child’s birthday brings a sense of renewed wonder and awe. The emergence of a life, a living creature, from the mother’s womb, a baby now exists! The wonder soon gave way to the weight of responsibility. We had to keep this baby alive. Every moment required diligence and vigilance, attention, focus, concentration, care, empathy, compassion—everything we could give, and all those around us could give. If only we could know and appreciate all that has gone into bringing us into the world and keeping us alive, we would overflow with gratitude. But that’s not the way of life. We receive naturally, are nurtured and sustained, and live our own lives. Though we may return some of the kindness we have been given, our lives move forward, we focus on ourselves, our new family, friends, work, and community. This is the way of life.
And parents? We have to accept, even take joy in our child’s growth and their emergence into the world—letting go of our need to parent, to protect, to shelter from the storm, and do what little we can to guide in the wisdom we are finding as we age.
I love this poem by Kahlil Gibran.
Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself
The 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 arrow may go swift and far
Let you bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves the bow that is stable.