As a parent, you never know when the last visit to the playground will be. You really don’t even think about it. The day just passes, unnoticed, and you’ve pushed your last swing without fanfare or sadness. Nor do you know when the last time will be that your son will hold your hand. Suddenly, he just subtly withholds his grasp, and it just is. Later, looking back, you realize life is a series of sweetly sublime moments, blending together. You pick the memories apart like threads from a beloved sweater, and it’s enough to make you weep. Not just because you realize the fleeting moments are gone, but because you also know that much of the time, you weren’t paying attention when they happened. Maybe you were preoccupied by bills that needed to be paid, or how frustrating your coarse, curly hair could be and how polished the other moms seemed. Maybe you were just wishing to be anywhere but on that damn playground again, pushing the swing for the umpteenth time. It’s why Emily in Our Town wanted to go back and relive an ordinary day… to savor and deeply notice and feel the gift of everyday life that we take for granted.
And then, you blink, and you’re standing in the middle of Peace Park in Taipei, next to the playground with the squealing children swishing down the slide and the beleaguered looking parents pushing swings and you hear your 16 year olds voice, nearly in tears, imploring you to understand that she’s been living abroad for 8 months and she feels so different, so changed. She’s independent now. Not only does she not need you to push her swing, or catch her at the end of the slide, she doesn’t need you. And that, I suppose, was the job description all along. To teach her to not need you.
As the taxi pulls away from the curb, you watch her through the back window as long as you can. She’s walking confidently toward the MRT heading to another part of Taipei to deliver a speech in Chinese. Your heart aches with pride and sadness, but mostly pride.
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 our 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.
Kahlil Gibran (1883 – 1931)