At our lake house I have a Kahlil Gibran quote in a frame flanked by photos of each of my two boys. They are smiling from the pumpkin patch, young and sweet. Gibran was a favorite of my brother’s, this excerpt especially, and after his passing it became even more special.
“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.”
I have always loved the imagery in this piece: God as The Archer, parents as the bows, the child the arrow. The idea that He is ultimately in control; that as parents, we don’t own our children, but Life does.
One of those boys in the pumpkin patch will be starting college in a few weeks and “The Day We Say Goodbye” is marked on the calendar. It’s a phrase that has permeated my summer. It has dictated my mood, my interactions with people, my interactions with my son. It’s like a cloud always hovering, darkening my days.
Most days I can channel the sun, the clouds part, and I realize I am blessed, and I am grateful. I know I am. But some days I unexpectedly get this random glimpse of him at the age of three, or ten, or even right now, and my heart feels like it’s literally being torn from my chest.
Yes, I know it’s not “Good-Bye” in the permanent sense. I will still be his mother; I will always be his mother. But after “that day,” as we drive away, everything will change. He will be embarking on a glorious adventure that will take him to places I cannot even imagine, within and without. Places I “cannot visit, not even in my dreams.” He will discover himself, apart from us. He will chart his own course.
More than anything, he will have the time of his life. He will create memories and friendships and relationships that will last a lifetime. He will expand his mind and world and, most importantly, he will discover himself. He will set his course and even though it may change, and change often, he will be blessed with the opportunity to take charge of his own life.
And for that, I am so, so grateful.
But along with the gratitude comes the realization that he will have hard days, and hard nights. He will get sick. He will question himself. He will be disappointed, by others and probably by himself. He will meet girls and maybe fall in love with one (or two) of them. Or maybe get his heart broken. In the midst of finals.
The conundrum is that while this breaks my heart, and his absence will be profoundly felt by all of us, I know it is what needs to happen. It’s what every parent wants, for their child to fly. On their own. If I am honest with myself, my children are my gift to this world. They have given me purpose beyond myself. And I need to give this gift away, no matter how much I love it.
I thank God for the blessing of being this young man’s mother and the opportunity to raise him. It has been my greatest challenge, my greatest joy. But for now, I will pray to trust The Archer and the mark He sees on the path of the the infinite, bending as much as I can and feeling myself held in His arms.