“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. … You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.” Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.
It’s another beautiful day in Los Angeles today, where I’m staying with my daughter and her family. Of course, almost all days in LA are beautiful, to a visitor. Flowers are in bloom, grass and shrubbery are green, the wind is almost non-existent, the sun is bright and warm. I had similar thoughts in Ventura when I was at my son’s. I went to the beach, downtown, exploring the city. But I’ll guess there are plenty of people who don’t see it quite that way, at least not every day.
For example, I was reminded early this morning what it’s like to be a mother of young children. When I got out of bed at 7:30, my daughter had made breakfast for her girls and done the dishes, gotten dressed, put a load of laundry in the washer, and was on her way out the door to take one to school. Last week I was on Grandma duty, getting a 3 year old ready and taking him to preschool, playing basketball later, fixing dinner, giving a bath. Luckily, I had a list of get-ready tasks! It’s a challenge to stay mindful when there is so much to be responsible for and the clock keeps ticking away.
The memories of my days getting three kiddos ready for school (and/or daycare), making lunches, and taking off to my own job came back to me in a hurry. I don’t suppose I gave it a lot of deep thought then. I just did what I had to do. Sometimes I was relieved just to get to the office so I could stop being on hyper-alert and calm myself down. Evenings were much the same. Drive home in traffic, pick up kids, make supper, do dishes, check homework, tidy up, makes notes for the next day, and fall into bed. I know for certain that I never thought it wasn’t worth it, even when they were teenagers!
I kept that routine up in one fashion or another, with and without husband help, with stepchildren, and with puppies that needed potty-training, and through moving and jobs and school and grief, until I started this sabbatical. It’s amazing that one can go on semi-auto pilot for nearly 40 (!) years and not realize the full toll. It’s fortunate we get the installment plan, for I don’t think I could have or would have made the same choices I made then if I knew then what I know now. That lifestyle served me then and I became who I am because of it. I am ever so grateful now to be who I am today, with an appreciation for the past AND for the present AND for the future yet to be. My sabbatical has given me the space for this.
I am grateful for daughters and sons who now are showing me other ways of parenting and just being in relationship with their siblings and spouses and friends. And I am also grateful that I can show them, and my grandchildren, that life goes on and we keep getting to make choices and change our minds. As Gibran also said, “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.” My arrows have gone swift and far. But my work is not done. I must remember that I am also an arrow of my own parents’ bows. I am still fulfilling Life’s longing for itself through me. My soul also dwells in the house of tomorrow.
It’s good to be reminded and to remember.