No relationship compares to that of parent and child. The Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran, in his book The Prophet, wrote a poem/prose On Children, which you can read at the end of this post. In a nutshell, Gibran writes that as parents, we can house our children’s bodies but not their souls. We can strive to be like them but we shouldn’t try to make them be like us because children are of the future, and parents are of the past. We should think of ourselves as bows from where our children, as living arrows, are shot into the future. To Gibran, God determines the aim but the bow must remain firm and steady for the arrow to fly forward, while the bow stays behind.
Having children is a constant process of letting go, and as much as I think about this in terms of my own children, recently I’ve been thinking more from the point of view of the arrow, as a daughter.
My mother had surgery requiring her to be in the hospital for several days, and I spent much of my time with her. We are very different. To give you an idea, her hospital bag contained slippers, lipstick, and a hairbrush. There were also chocolates that she displayed on her table so the nurses would have a little treat. By contrast my bag would’ve had chap stick and a scrappy hair band so I would’t have to worry about hair. There wouldn’t be any chocolate because I would’ve eaten them all. My mom would’ve reminded me to pack slippers, and I would’ve agreed to take them.
As the child arrow, I flew far away. I lived in different cities, countries and continents than my parents. I had adventures in deserts and oceans; I blazed my own path with all it’s pitfalls and triumphs.
Yet as far away as I went, there is nothing like the love of a child towards their mother. I remember reading and crying over the case of a badly beaten child. His mother abused him by burning him with cigarette butts and even as the doctors dressed his wounds, the boy cried for his mother. He knew she was the one that hurt him, yet in his time of need what he wanted most was to have her.
That thought gives me solace when I feel I messed up something with my kids; when I yell a little louder then usual or say something a little stronger than perhaps necessary. I am my children’s bow, they will always search for me, just as I will always be connected to my mother.
As independent as I am, I cannot imagine life without her. So even if the surgery was not life threatening, I can’t say I wasn’t apprehensive when I said goodbye as she went to the hospital.
The hardest part of a surgery is the first day, and I was there to help. My mother was in a lot of pain, but the nurse said that she should try to take some steps to get her intestines moving again. My mom wanted to stand up right away, and the nurse had to remind her to “take it easy, go slowly, don’t do too much all at once.” The nurse explained that she could feel faint and nauseous and so she had to first raise the back of the bed and stay there half an hour, then turn with her feet off the bed and sit there for five minutes and then lay back down. Later she should do that again, and get up. Later do that again and take a couple of steps, and so on.
My mother’s response was “I want to get out of here.” And though it was obviously painful as evidenced by a grimace on her face and stops to take deep breaths, the woman kept on going. She stood up and walked on her first attempt. I looked towards the floor and smiled; I didn’t realize I might have gotten my determination from her.
Knowing that all would be well, my sister and I spent the following three days with her at the hospital. We had a little routine going: I’d get there early in the morning, she would arrive for lunch, and I would leave in the early afternoon to pick up my boys from school.
We made ourselves comfortable on Nena’s bed
While at the hospital, the world stopped. There was nowhere to go, and other than taking my mom for a walk around the ward there was nothing left to do other than let time heal her wounds. Every afternoon when I left the hospital, the real world descended upon me with a vengeance that left me simultaneously frazzled and exhausted.
My mother is now home, and my life is returning to normal though I visit her often as I live down the street. Yesterday, she was on her bed with all her grandchildren who came to visit. She loves the company and noted she was only missing my other sister who lives in California to make her complete. I know what she means; the place I belong to now is with Joe and my boys. They are my everything. And I hope that as a parent, I will have given my own children the freedom to be who they need to be, but the knowledge that as arrows, they can always come home to a sturdy bow.
How about you? How is your mother/daughter mother/son relationship? If you have children, what is your relationship with them?
Children – From The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran
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.