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 never intended to have children. I was terrified that history would repeat itself and I would give my would-be kids the same emotionally and physically violent childhood I'd had. I didn't think it was remotely possible I could be a good parent; I'd certainly never been taught what that looked like, aside from the Brady Bunch reruns I devoured (for years my sister and I could do Brady Bunch trivia to a rather freaklish degree; it was our version of the little match girl with her nose pressed to the window, only our window was a TV screen). If I didn't have kids, there was no risk of screwing them up.
And...at twenty years old, there I was with a baby. Our fate was locked together the moment our eyes met (yeah, you know and I know newborn babies can't lift their heads and can't lock eyes with you, but that's what happened), and I've never wished I made a different choice. And I chose to have a second child, and never regretted that either. Having two sons took me on a road I couldn't have imagined or planned. History didn't repeat itself, although I was FAR from being Carol (or Mike) Brady.
Today at work someone asked me about my kids and I realized my younger son will be 28 years old in three weeks...and my oldest will be 35 in a hair more than three months.How did it happen? When did it happen? How is it possible that I have sons that age? Okay, since I'm staring 55 in the face, there's no logic to my confusion and astonishment, and yet still, there it is. How is it that child one is deeply respected in local political circles, has a huge social network and has traveled to more places than I'll ever see? How can he have known so much joy and loss and joy again when he's 'just a kid'? How is it that child two lives more than halfway across the country living the quintessential 20-something-world-shaker life, and I see him a couple of times a year? Who is making sure he eats right and doesn't drink too much caffeine and gets some sleep? When did I stop reading them bedtime stories and buying Lucky Charms?
I've learned so much being a parent, things no one ever told me. The very moment you contemplate having a child, you should get some kind of disclosure statement:
Dear Would-Be Parent,
So you are considering a child. Please be advised that you will lose countless hours of sleep over the child, due to teething, illness, fear, hurt and worry. This will continue long past infancy, childhood, adolescence and right into adulthood. You will turn into a creature so fierce you would gleefully rip out the throat of anyone who hurts that child, even when the child has grown to adulthood and is taller than you. You will keep photographs of the child on your refrigerator decades after said photos were taken. You will sit through mind-numbing Little League games and make hundreds of cupcakes. You'll watch 101 Dalmations so many times you see spots with your eyes open or closed. The sound of your child enthusiastically singing the words from a movie while in the shower ("the mold of your life is in your hands to break!") will cause your heart to expand almost to the point of bursting. You'll learn to deal with blood and fevers and vomiting and bullies, but it will all vanish with a goodnight hug and "I love you mom". The child's pain will be your pain, the child's joy yours. You will make spectacularly big, undoable mistakes that wake you up years later with regret and sorrow. You will discover that your child (whether five years old or decades older), can gut you alive with actions or words sharper than any filleting knife. And, like it or not, you will discover that you are capable of a love bigger, deeper and more expansive than you ever dreamed possible. Proceed at your own risk.
A friend once told me that mothers' hair turns white from all the sleepless nights in the moonlight spent worrying about our children. Makes sense to me.
And so here I sit at my desk tonight with freezing cold toes, listening to pounding rain, contemplating and writing about parenthood because today it dawned on me that I'm the mother of an almost-28 year old and almost-35 year old. I've already got existential angst going on because of that whole almost-55 thing, asking myself what the hell I've got to show for 55 years of living and feeling pretty depressed about the answer. My boss said "but you've raised two wonderful sons and that's an accomplishment", but I guess I don't feel that way. The bow doesn't consider the loosed arrow an accomplishment. The bow is just...the launching pad. And the arrow...it doesn't look back; it flies forward because that's its destiny and purpose. One moment the two are one...bow and arrow each needing the other to fulfill a destiny and the next moment......