A word on Independence

Marianna, Kahlil's Sister
Marianna By Khalil Gibran

Its been a minute, albeit a long drawn out one but I appreciate the patience. So let’s get to the issue. Over the past ten years I’ve seen more and more evidence of the disservice we do as parents when we try to provide and be all we think our children need us to be. The disservice I speak of includes catering to the child’s every whim, fancy and tantrum (toddler and adolescent ones alike); protecting them from all evil and experience, going so far as to settle all fights and arguments,and such delights – resulting in sheltering their beloved children from life generally.

Although the child who grows up in this bubble may know that their parents love them dearly, unfortunately they may also learn many inadvertent lessons including low self- esteem, low self- efficacy, and an unrealistic view of how the world works. I unimaginatively call it simply “the syndrome”. The child going through the syndrome is resentful, somewhat withdrawn, cynical and contemptuous. This child may be reluctant to ever leave home and they never grow up. Their emotional intelligence many never mature past age 6 and responsibility will constantly be placed at the feet of the parents. All of this is a cover up for the basic fear that pervades them all- I am not good enough to take on life on my own.

This is a devastating but ironic message to take home after all this love and caring. As parents we want the best for our children, but does this best include or negate independence? when you think of your goals as parents, do we accentuate independence of thought and of being?

Life as I know it is about the push and the pull, learning not only from word but from deed. Life involves making mistakes in order to learn and coming up with our own solutions; falling down and getting back up. These are the moments that teach us resilience – possibly the greatest life skill known to man; ingenuity is another skill and most importantly belief in one self as deserving air breathing space on this planet.

These” Helicopter parents” would do well to understand that life is learned mostly through experience, the little things as well as the big thing and the most you can hope for is that the advice you give is remembered when the lesson presents itself.

I have seen anecdotal evidence of the strength of character developed in children who resiliently struggle through a lack of resources to make their mark in this life. I have also seen beaming success in children whose well- to- do parents insist on standing aside while their child worked in the  school cafeteria, when they could easily have bought them a car, a house and a side of college education.

Khalil Gibrans’ prophetic words ring through my mind whenever I meet a frustrated and confused parent of a child in the syndrome. These words are also there when I watch my children make their own chicken burgers!

I’d like to leave you with the poem in its entirety:

On Children
 Kahlil Gibran

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.