By Rénee Tillotson
Come to a true and deep acceptance of your child’s agency. Especially once they attain the age of reason – of understanding the consequences of their actions – we must respect them as we do ourselves, as having more and more capacity for self-guidance. Of course we drench them in love, provide them with structure and discipline, the finest ethics, the art of living, diversity of perspectives, stories of heroes, and closeness with nature, adding enormous empathy and forgiveness as needed. And we let go.
Just as we cannot take credit for the successes they win, we cannot take all the blame upon ourselves for their failures. They are their own people. Their life is not ours to live for them, however much we might long to correct it or take on their suffering, and most certainly not ours to live vicariously because it feels more compelling than our own. We allow them the open space and dignity to lead their lives as they see fit, to accept and deal with the consequences they reap, and to self-correct.
Nor do we encourage our children to indulge in self-pity. While we may empathize with their sorrows, we do not set them up as pitiable victims of circumstance, for no life approach is more disempowering than the attitude of perpetual victimhood. Our pity robs them of their stature as self-guiding agents. We show them by example that we can always choose our response to life’s circumstances, if not the circumstances themselves.
As your child matures and goes through a rough patch that you can see is created by their life choices and attitudes, content yourself with the thought that all life is for the education of the soul. For that reason, nothing ever ends, as Pema Chödrön says, until we learn what we need to from it.
These rough patches may pose the most difficult challenge in letting go. Once we have asked permission and given them our counsel on a certain situation, we leave them be. We do not harp, nor do we cooperate with their misplaced priorities and choices. We hold our own steady course. We honor the light within them, praising them whenever the authentic opportunity arises, continue to love unstintingly – even if from a distance – and remain ready to give wise counsel again should they ever be open to it.
Once we have sent them into the world with the best we have to offer them in love, confidence and guidance, we allow our children to live their own lives. And we find that in doing so, we open ourselves to all that they have to teach us!
On Children by Kahlil 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.
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