I have been trying to organize over 40 years of living in the same house, deciding what to throw away and what to keep. I am slowly going through files and determining the worthiness of each item. Sometimes it is hard to let go. Other times a piece of my heart brings me back to the past.
As I was going through papers I found a “poem” I wrote about my daughters; I have three. I wrote it for one of the Mother/Daughter Workshops I facilitated.
But before I share the poem, I must explain a little more. I have always liked the poem “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran. It has special meaning to me. In the poem he says,
“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.”
Later he writes,
“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
As parents we want to protect and keep our children from harm, but as they grow they must find their own way. They are the arrows and we are the bows. As the bow we can only hope the arrow finds the right trajectory. But where it lands we will not know.
I wrote the “poem” to my daughters—my struggle as a parent—struggle to understand Gibran’s wisdom. This poem spans from the miracle of birth to the miracle of womanhood and my learning as we traveled together. I am still learning. But my sincere hope is now they can say my mother is my friend.
I remember so vividly the comment when you were in the womb, “My children will never do that.”
I was determined to love fiercely and hold tightly.
I said, “ I will make sure you are safe and secure.”
When you were born, I held you in my arms and marveled at your gentle breaths.
Each of you felt like such an awesome responsibility.
At night I would tiptoe into your room just to make sure you still breathed.
Your first steps were my first steps.
It seemed like you didn’t walk, you ran.
I stood breathless because I was afraid you might fall.
The day I sent you off to school was both a delight and fear.
It was fearful because I realized I was placing your care into the hands of others.
Your sphere was widening, but so was mine.
You began to dream dreams.
One day you were going to be an astronaut, a physical therapist, a policewoman.
Another day you were going to sing in a band and explore the world.
Your hopes and dreams became my hopes and dreams.
I stood and marveled at the world.
It was when you became teenagers that I realized you were not an extension of me-but of me.
I was the bow and you were the arrow.
You had been loaned to me for only a short time.
But first we argued and we fought as mothers and teenage daughters sometimes do.
You struggled to be free and become yourself not an extension of me.
I stood breathless because I was afraid and remembered the words
“My children will not do that.” (Sometimes you proved me wrong.)
I realized I needed to let go and trust a higher power.
Each of you left for new adventures: school, the military, or work.
I was fearful because I realized you were stepping into the larger fearsome world.
But I was the bow and you were the arrow.
You were loaned to me for only a short time.
No you are not an extension of me, but you are of me and I am of you.
You taught me to love
You taught me to trust.
You taught me to believe in myself.
Yes I was the bow and you were the arrow.
And so it is with daughters and sons.
We must let them fly free to be who they want to be.