Photo Credit: Bruno Nascimento, Unsplash.com
Perceptions of Your Children Guide Both Your Behavior (and Theirs!)
If you have your own children or care for children, what do you want to keep doing to guide them? What do you want to change? When you look at them, what do you see? What gift can you discover and celebrate in each of them?
“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.”
This is the last stanza of “On Children.” What does this part mean to you?
Have you ever said your children were “bending you out of shape?” Good!
As a parent of hearing-impaired twin boys and then a younger boy (now all grown) I can relate! My interpretation of Gibran’s words is that the ability to love children well enough to guide them to adulthood, then send them fully formed with direction and power into the future is life-changing for the parents! If you accept that the parents are the bow in this poem, Gibran says they need to gladly allow their lives to be reshaped if they’re going to guide their children straight towards their destiny.
I would call the “Archer” the Creator. You can choose what it is to you — “God,” the Universe, Karma, the Divine Source, or another force.
BOTH ARCHERY BOWS AND PARENTS ARE POWERFUL
You might need to know a little about archery to get the full impact of the metaphor about guiding children. If you’ve ever practiced archery or watched a movie about Robin Hood or ancient battles, you might remember what the archer has to do to the bow to make the arrow fly true and far to its destination.
Modern bows look very different from the wood and sinew bows of the past, but the principle’s the same. Firing an arrow from a bow works the way a spring does. Instead of aimlessly boing-boinging around like a spring, however, the arrow has a goal and the bow has a purpose.
Both the bow and the arrow are loose possibilities — only potential energy until the archer has a goal.
Then, the archer aims the bow at a target. He or she holds the bow in one hand while they “nock” the arrow with the other — finding the perfect situation on the bow to prepare to launch it. Then, the archer carefully guides the arrow all along that sweet spot on the bow as he or she holds its back end and pulls the string. The archer uses all their strength to pull the bow ends out of shape as far as possible without breaking them, still carefully, but gently guiding the arrow in place. Finally, the archer lets go of the string and the arrow at the same time and that potential energy’s actualized, transferred to the arrow and released in an explosion of guided flight!
Neither the bow nor the arrow will ever be exactly the same.
HOW DO YOU GUIDE A CHILD’S FLIGHT INTO INDEPENDENCE?
Allowing yourself to love enough to sacrifice, to let go of some things while maintaining the integrity of the family structure (the bow) means that on a regular basis, you can consciously decide what you want to believe about the reality of your child. What powers will you transfer when you release them from your strings?
Identify basic strengths each one has that you can nurture. Which virtues such as: patience, wisdom, courage, perseverance, etc, do you want to help them develop? Are there qualities, such as arrogance or greed, that need to be peeled off, like shaving an arrow so it’s smooth?
Does your family do or want to do something to consistently guide the children? Do you want to schedule family consultation meetings? Heart to heart talks?
Are we proving to them that they have immeasurable worth or proving to ourselves that we’re the ones in power? How will we show them to deal with adversity, so if trouble’s one of the circumstances adding to the pull on the bowstring, the arrow will still fly in a perfect arch and land on target?
LIST THREE QUALITIES YOU WANT TO NURTURE IN EACH CHILD
List three skills or qualities you want each child to develop. What practices will you keep or begin this year to guide that child to grow in those ways? How often will you celebrate even little victories – or big ones like potty training?
LIST THREE QUALITIES AND THREE PRACTICES YOU WANT TO NURTURE IN YOURSELVES AS PARENTS
What kind of guidance do you want to give your little arrows? What bow-bending qualities will that require from you? More patience? More structure? Less structure?
A practice is something you do regularly as parents. What do you want to result from your practices?
One family practice that guided my life was that if we finished the housework by Saturday evening, we celebrated by driving to a road near the airport the next afternoon to watch planes take off and land. We had very little money, but we’d imagine places those planes might take us if we were passengers as we ate sandwiches and drank Kool-Aid in the car. I’ve spent time on four of the world’s continents so far and traveled to more cities than I can count. I began believing this was possible during those airport picnic celebrations for finishing our chores.