When I look at my own children, I wonder what they will be 10 or 20 years from now — what path they will take, what mistakes they will make, and what achievements they will accomplish. As a parent, I wish the best for them, of course, and I try to assist and support them along the way. Sometimes though, I it is also important that I allow them to fail, to learn the consequences of their actions.
What is tough about parenting is learning to walk the fine line between shaping and influencing your children to be their best, and being a control freak, forcing them to live a life of your own choosing instead of theirs.
A parent can sometimes be their own child’s worst enemy, as illustrated in this short anecdote by Anthony de Mello:
A man met a woman at a supermarket. The woman was pushing a grocery cart with two little boys sitting inside it. The man said, “Oh what cute little kids you have. How old are they?”
The woman replied, “The doctor is three, and the lawyer is two.”
I remember when I was in my senior year of high school, how some of my classmates and friends were sad or angry because their parents were forcing them to apply to colleges they did not want, and wanted them to select majors they had little interest in. Some were forced into medicine, others into accounting or business, and so on. I was fortunate that my own father let me decide for myself what I wanted, and supported me all the way, even if I later on changed gears and shifted majors.
Having experienced that kind of unconditional love and support from my father, and actually my entire family, I want to extend the same to my children.
My youngest daughter was once asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. I thought to myself that she could be all sorts of things — she was a gifted pianist, a pretty good artist and she excelled in her academics. But instead of saying any of these, she replied, “I just want to be happy.”
When I thought about it, I guess there is not much else one can really wish for one’s kids other than for them to be outrageously happy.
Let me close by quoting a few verses from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, about letting your children be themselves:
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.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.