Sidi Ifni- Morocco
“Your children are not your children,” Gibran Khalil entitled one of his brilliant poems about the unique relationship between parents and their children. The unconditional love parents evince towards their children is unsurpassed. Yet, to tell parents that their children are not their own is akin to taking their lives, rending their hearts apart and setting fire to their souls. No parent can bear the thought of being told so or even hearing a threat of this sort. In this sense, the poet must have expected us to read between the lines.
Today, some homes complain of a generation gap in that parents incessantly argue with their children about what to do in life, what to choose to guarantee a good future, how to lead a successful life, who and when to marry, and what road is better. While children think that their thoughts are the right ones, parents hasten to disagree and interrupt them, pointing out that experience in life matters and that children of today may not know anything about what would benefit them and what would not. Unfortunately, parents forget that children have their own thoughts that might be totally different from theirs.
Out of unconditional love, the minute parents give birth to children, they want to possess their hearts, their minds, their thoughts and everything else about them. The reality, however, shows that parents can take great delight in claiming and possessing their children throughout their lives, but life turns out to be so strong and indomitable that it will sooner or later confiscate them from the laps of parents when the time of departure inevitably arrives. This is why parents must always bear in mind that even though they are the reason behind their children’s existence, life also says that it longs for them and plays a part in raising them as Gibran says, “they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.”
Parents stay with their children in the same home for many years to the extent that they forget that one day they will leave one another. This is why it is common for mothers to cry on the day of their daughters’ wedding or to say no to their sons’ proposal to a girl at a young age. Mothers cherish every single moment they spend with their sons and daughters throughout their lives. Deep inside, they feel that they belong to them, whereas in fact they do not. Even though children live with their parents, they do not belong to them, for sooner or later they will embrace the future and live far away from their parents. Such is life! Though hard to bear, parting with children, for parents, is inescapable, “and though they are with you yet they belong not to you,” wrote Gibran in this regard.
In a home, parents evince their endless love, dote on their children, offer them gifts, care for them profoundly, give them affection, and offer them peace. They can give them everything except their thoughts. After birth, children develop their own thoughts which turn out to be different from those of their parents. They have their own thoughts, which parents cannot alter or change. They have the right to enjoy thinking and dwell in their thoughts of what they see around, of what they observe and of how to live the life they are endowed with. No parent can drown his or her thoughts down their children’s throats or fill their minds with old-fashioned thoughts. Children come down to earth with new thoughts for humankind. This is why parents must give up imposing their thoughts on children. “You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts,” wrote Gibran.
“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,” goes Gibran’s poem. Children must enjoy their lives the way they like, marry whoever they love when they grow up, invent something new, bring about a change for powerless ancestors, benefit humankind with more welfare, and attain a brilliant, peaceful future for our world. Parents can hug their children’s bodies, but not their souls. They can kiss their foreheads, but cannot see through what their souls conceal. They can enjoy staring at the beauty of their bodies, but cannot see the shape of their souls. The child’s’ souls usually outlive those of parents. Thus, parents’ incessant attempts to seize the souls of their children always end up in failure. Children may visit tomorrow, while parents may not. Let us give children more freedom since tomorrow beckons them, while it bids us goodbye.
We are often told to listen to our parents’ advice, for there is much wisdom in that. We are told that we must strive to be like our parents if we are seeking success in life. Sometimes, we are forced or advised by our parents to choose a certain profession or follow a certain road that may lead to our parents’ goals, not ours. This is why we find taxi drivers giving birth to new young taxi drivers, teachers giving birth to new young teachers, and bakers giving birth to new young bakers.
In Tamazight tradition, for instance, legend has it that to seek parents’ approval, children must strive to be like their fathers and emulate them in their quest for work, for livelihood and for their mode of life. This attitude towards life is wrong given that life goes forward, not backwards, that we should contemplate the future, not the past and that we should live tomorrow, not yesterday.
The role that parents have the honor to play in life is that they are catalysts. They are bows. They are archers. They are bodies through which children come down to earth to enjoy their own life for their part. Parents must bear in mind that they were not the creators of their children. They were rather the reasons behind the existence. Their children are not their children. God sent these children down to earth for these parents. And God ordered us to treat our parents in the most respectful manner. Parents cannot bear the thought of parting with their children and the latter for their part cannot part with their parents. Notwithstanding, no one owns the other. Though parents give birth, raise children, and perspire to provide everything for them, they are honored to be the bows.
“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, ” Gibran wrote. At this point, God gave us the power to make love, to give birth, to raise children, to unconditionally love and to make them be loved in return. Parents’ honor must be to see their “arrows”, children, going swift, hitting the object, and living a life of their own. No matter what complaints parents may utter, they must surrender to the “archer,” God, for in surrender, they give a new life to their children so as to leave a mark on the path of the infinite. Only in the hereafter can parents enjoy having their children forever. On earth, however, the best service parents can offer their children is prepare them for life just birds do their nestlings and forget the propensity of ownership.
God teaches us that we are on earth for a reason and that each soul must serve its purpose. Parents must raise their children in the best manner possible without owning them, and children must do everything for the sake of their parents, except renouncing their thoughts and emulating their parents. Even though it is hard to imagine parting with a child, parents must acquaint themselves with the mysteries of this life. God teaches us that life after death must be our quest in this worldly life. “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, ” concluded Gibran. Just as the creator loves parents, He also loves their children. Parents must be stable while their children leave them for tomorrow. Parents must be ready for the coming of the archer and serve as obedient bows. They must have faith in God’s life mystery, “Your children are not your children.”
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