Saturday, May 11, 2002

Blueprint for Children

Tonight, David Letterman begins his monologue with “Tomorrow is Mother’s Day – that’s the day we honor the person who we blame for all of our personal problems.”

I was one of those kids who felt as though she must be a changeling or else adopted. My dreams were never my mother’s dreams. My “otherness” confused her, angered her, frustrated her, disappointed her, made her cry. My mother seemed to see me as an appendage of hers; she couldn’t understand my independent will, my need to separate myself from my family’s strong conservative attitudes.

I couldn’t wait to go away to college, but as glad as I was to leave home, I still wished that my mother would somehow come to understand me and accept me for who I was. And so, my freshman year, I sent her a copy of Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet for Mother’s Day.

And on the book’s flyleaf, before my signature preceded by “Love,…” I copied the following from the section On Children:

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

Since my mother has always been a committed Catholic, I figured that Gibran’s language style and references to a capital He might make the passage have the ring of “sacred truth” for her. It didn’t work.

It didn’t work for her, but it worked for me and the way I have tried to view my own children.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

Today CNN reported that A U.N. summit approved a new blueprint late Friday to improve the world for children in the next 15 years. The agreement came after contentious negotiations between the United States and other nations on sex education, abortion and the death penalty.

Succumbing to conservative pressure, the United States stood in opposition to the180 nations that adopted – by consensus and with a round of applause -- the final summit document, "A World Fit For Children." However, at the insistence of the United States, the intent of the original document regarding "health and reproductive services" was diluted to skirt the issue of abortion counseling, and, in addition, the United States is excluded from a requirement barring the death penalty or life imprisonment for those under the age of 18.

"A World Fit for Children" – except if they live in the United States, where an adult minority of small minds and stagnant souls refuse to acknowledge that life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.