One afternoon in late May I happened to catch the first wobbly flight of a baby swallow (I think). I posted earlier about the two different bird species sharing the same bird house. The lower level baby robins had already flown their nest and I had been watching the feeding of the swallow from my living room window.
Then, as I passed the window, I saw it perched on the edge of its nest. I waited. Shortly it launched itself off the nest and slid down the brick wall behind some flower pots. Mamma was sitting on a lawn chair a few metres away, watchful but silent.
My next pass by the window I saw baby, probably young child in bird terms, had made it to a shrub. Mamma was watching from another spot, still a few metres away.
Mamma was watching but the baby was doing all the work. It was obvious it was expected to “get a grip and fly on”. While watching the pair one of my favourite poems came to mind, Kahil Gibran’s, On Children, published in 1923.
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.
I have been told that this poem, with the message Your children are not your children is a poster in some maternity hospitals. Conveying the message that children require guidance but have their own identities, their own lives.
I know a young lawyer who always knew she would be a lawyer. Not because it was her passion but because it was the dream of her lawyer father. I have known parents who wanted a hockey star and have tried (and failed) to mold one from their I-only-want-to-have-fun-playing-hockey child.
I also remember a Mum telling me long ago that her goal as a parent was to raise a child with a good heart. A teacher, bank teller, doctor, lawyer, hockey player would be fine, but it was more important that they loved what they did and that they did good. That they had good hearts. She was like the bird Mama, guiding, but sending a clear message to “get a grip and fly on”.
She was building a foundation of kindness, consideration of others, responsibility, and doing one’s best – just like the Mama bird.