I recently shared this passage written by Kahlil Gibran (from The Prophet) with a parent who was struggling to have healthy boundaries with their children. I think it's a beautiful description of what a boundaried relationship with our children can look like.
"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."
Being a parent has been the hardest thing I've ever done! Had I known how hard it was going to be ahead of time... I'm not sure I would have done it! When my kids were young, I thought it was my job to do everything I could to keep them from suffering. Why should they have to learn the hard way like I did? I was supposed to make life easier for them, right? We all hope to give our children a better, happier and healthier life don't we?
It took me many years to learn that loving them well didn't mean sparing them from making mistakes, getting hurt, and experiencing suffering. Loving our children well really means being able to show up, be fully present with them in their pain, and holding them through their suffering so that they can develop their own identity, resilience, and purpose.
I love working with parents to help them find their version of being a "bow that is stable" for their children - while helping them maintain their own sanity! Successful parenting isn't always intuitive - in fact, it is often counter-intuitive. This piece is a lovely reminder to me to not make my children's successes or struggles all about me, and to give them the space and freedom to reach their own potential in their own way.