Your Children Are Not Yours

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said,
Speak to us of Children.

And he said:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s yearning for itself.
They come through you but are not from you,
And though they are with you 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.

– From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran


800px-Szymon_i_Krystian_003When I read this poem I knew I had to share it. It seems that all around me I see parents not letting go of their children when the time has come. It’s an unhealthy attachment, one that is ages old. Described in Buddhism as Upādāna, attachment takes four intertwined forms:

  • sense-pleasure (kamupadana) : Pleasure from our senses

  • wrong-view (ditthupadana) : Clinging to false theories and forming speculative theories

  • rites-and-rituals (silabbatupadana) : Eager indulging into rituals and ritual practices

  • self-doctrine (attavadupadana) : Greed arising from the idea that we are eternal, that we exist by ourselves

Parental attachment often rises out of fear. What I hear about most from parents is the fear that their child is not going to make it in life, that their child will become a drug user or dropout. Unfortunately, attachment clouds objectivity, and some parents never see just how mature their kids have become on their own.

Living your life without any attachment to the things you like – or aversion to the things you don’t like – helps attain a sense of freedom and happiness, absent of judgement. There is pride and joy when kids figure something out on their own. As a result, children who have a “helicopter” mom or dad doing everything for them will suffer in college.

Helicopter Parent: A parent who is involved in every aspect of a child’s life, especially school. Their own kids often describe them as hovering over them like a helicopter.

So relax a little. Everything around you may be in flux, but you still have to breathe. When you sit comfortably and start to observe your breath, you become an observer. You can be the same type of observer of your kids. But that doesn’t mean inaction. If your child is not doing well, you still need to get to the root of the problem. And that’s where coaching comes in.