This August I experienced the parenthood rite of passage of moving my youngest child to college and entered the “empty nest” phase of life. I know it’s a cliche but it really is true that eighteen years can fly by in a moment! It seemed my son had just started high school when suddenly we were packing the car to move him to college. We survived the thirteen hour car ride by listening to podcasts and music, taking turns napping and enjoying the scenery. We explored his new college hometown and took lots of family pics. I thought my heart would burst with pride as he showed us around campus, his new home. He was eager to get started with classes and there was tension as he was obviously ready to get the process over and get away from our hovering. During our family orientation we attended a session on “student success”. It wasn’t the references to “W” curves, TED talks and the results of numerous studies that made us parents choke up and cry. It was a portion of a poem written in 1923 by Kahil Gibran called “On Children” from The Prophet. It captures the tension and bittersweet heartache of letting go as a parent. Whether your child goes to college in another city or lives at home as a young adult, it is normal to have conflicting emotions as they pull away and push off into adulthood. It’s normal to question yourself and ask “Have I done enough to prepare my child and did I make the most of the time we had together?” I hope parents reading this with small children will remember that the days really are long and the years short!
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.