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 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.
Copyright 1923 - Kahlil Gibran
This passage illustrates why "The Prophet" remains so popular. It comments on experiences everyone can relate to or at least meditate on. For the previous chapter, if you've never been married, you can still think about his description of marriage and how it compares to your concept of it. In the case of this chapter, I've never had a child, but aspire to be the kind of parent described here. Further, like everyone else, I've been a child (and still am in many respects), and this chapter gives me a sense of hope for my future.
Years ago, I read a suggestion somewhere, "Treat everyone the way you would treat your own children." An interesting statement. It might mean that you should act like a grown up. It might also mean that you should pay attention to those around you, try to understand them, and care for them. However, there are people it just wouldn't work for.
I stood in line at the bank. A couple meters ahead of me a boy was doing the potty dance. I remember it well from my youth, waiting for the elevator to reach my floor in the apartment building. He tugged on his mother's pantleg, saying he had to go. She shushed him, telling him he could hold it until they got home. He disagreed. She turned to him and stated even more firmly he would have to hold it. He whined piteously that he just couldn't wait. She gave an exasperated sigh, and stepped out of line, dragging him in tow, complaining at him as they left the bank for the restaurant across the parking lot. Maybe this kid did this all time to get attention or maybe he really needed to go, either way her childish reaction was teaching him the wrong lesson. Should I have stopped her to point out the counseling bills she was wracking up with each word out of her mouth?
My three cousins, on the other hand, have thirteen children between them: two, four, and seven respectively. The one with seven is Catholic - they take that "be fruitful an multiply" thing seriously. I remember hearing commments about it at one point, "Those poor kids. They must have it pretty rough, having to compete for attention, etc." Given that one might expect them to be less secure than the children with fewer siblings. Not so. All thirteen are some of the most well-adjusted, confident people I know. Why? I'm not privy to their day-to-day home lives (and I'm sure it has its rough spots), but I see the answer at every family gathering: they're loved unconditionally, for exactly who they are, and deep down they know it.