May is always a bit of an emotional month for me. For the past ten years, we have attended various “graduations”, end-of-the-year parties, and awards ceremonies, and the feeling is always the same.
How did this year go by so fast?
How did they get this big?
Tonight we have my son’s eighth-grade award ceremony, which is an elaborate, mini-graduation type event. Before the end of the night, I will have to reconcile myself to the idea of having two high schoolers. We will take pictures in which my son will be taller than me and I will wonder where this cute little guy went.
Just after school gets out my daughter will turn 15. I will drive her to the DMV to get her learner’s license and she will drive me home. Just like that, I will have gone from pilot to co-pilot. This analogy drips over into so many areas in her life where she is now exerting more independence and control.
My first instinct to these changes is to push back. I want to grab my children and hold them and scream, “MY BAAAAABIEEEEEES. Don’t LEAVE!”
I can’t even imagine how my friends who have graduating seniors are coping this year. I get misty-eyed just thinking about it.
But alas, I cannot hold my children in my arms and under my roof forever. For their very job is to grow up and move out of the nest.
This is not a problem, this is life exactly as it should be.
So, how do I cope?
I go back to a poem that we used to listen to when the children were babes in arms. It a poem by Khalil Gibran that Sweet Honey and the Rock put to music. I couldn’t link this song, but trust me when I say, look it up!
I will share the poem with you now:
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
Your children are not your children.
Though they are with you they belong not to you.
These words can be hard to swallow at first, but in my heart, I know they are true.
We adopted our daughter when she was a year old. I remember having a keen sense of her being a gift I was given to care for. I did not create her or grow her or birth her. But I could raise her. And give her back to the world, TO LIFE, as she came to me. A wondrous gift.
And though my son was conceived and grew in my womb, I had this same sense of being the vessel and steward of a great gift that did not entirely belong to me. As miraculous as the conception was and as high risk the pregnancy, when my son came into the world as perfect and healthy as could be, I knew it was not because of me. LIFE has created this miracle, had given him to me to house and then care for.
We have cared for and loved our children well for many years. They have grown to be strong arrows that will soon launch from my bow.
I feel them already pushing against me, creating space and tension between themselves and me so that they will fly free and far.
But even as I am pushed and bent, I know I will not break.
I will remember to arch wide and deep. To let go of the arrows I have formed.
How do I let my children grow up from underneath me?
How do I let them go?
I remember they were never really mine to begin with.
So I cannot ever lose them.
We will exist together in this world where The Creator, The Great Archer has put us.
And as much as I love them, I cannot wait to see where they fly.