I have had the most delightful nine months following the pregnancy and birth of a first child to a woman and her husband whom I met a year ago whose father delivered one of my own children. There was never a child more wanted than this little one who entered the world this morning. There are enough people who have witnessed and waited for this arrival as if she was their own. This is the beginning of a new family with hopes and dreams of their own not only for this child but for their own family unit.
It has given me time to think of when I had my own four children. I relived those early days. I thought about those same four children who are now grown, some with children of their own. I thought about all those expectations you have of a child when they come into to the family. For me, I wanted them to be healthy, happy and do what they loved the most in their lives. Of course there were hidden expectations as well. I remember my own Mother teaching me that my children are not my own but rather loaned to me for a short, albeit brief time. She used to recite to me passages of Kahlil Gilbran, from his poem On Children the collection The Prophet. Looking back, I wonder if she was reminding herself of a universal truth when I was not doing something as she thought I should.
I had four babies in four years. I have figured out that four children meant a total at least 10,000 diaper changes, most with cloth diapers (yes, I am dating myself). Equally as many bottles and sippy cups. Numerous lost socks, shoes that didn't match and mounds and mounds of laundry, dozen of Kleenex and at least 3 or 4 years of lost sleep. Untold hours of potty training, training pants, countless meals and dishes. As I was told as a young mother, "Where there is life, there is mess". And my 10 year old daughter confirmed that with her hands on her hips and disgust in her voice as she surveyed a messy house and commented, "Mommy, there must be an awful lot of life in this house". Yes, there was! And lots and lots of noise; laughter, tears, arguing and playing. A cacophony of sounds that I didn't realize at the time was a beautiful symphony of family.
The years have flown by. The house is now clean and tidy. And very, very quite. Today, I pray my children are healthy and happy. Though it is none of my business, I do sigh and shrug my shoulders when I think they aren't being true to themselves and others. There are times when I wonder what they are doing and why they are making the decisions they make. I don't know the answers to those questions nor are they relevant. What I do know is that I love each one of them no matter where they are or what they are doing. Just when I want to snip their heads off, I remember them as the ones who came through me and that I held in my arms and nursed under my heart. I then remember those precious downy heads whose hair I brushed as until they could brush their own and it tempers my emotion.
I cleaned their sweet bottoms. I washed their knees when they learned to crawl and their feet before they fell asleep in their beds after a day of play. I wiped their noses. I wiped my own nose when the bus pulled off on their first day of school. They are never far from my thoughts, they are indelibly marked in my heart and I am now comfortable in knowing that conflicting thoughts and emotions for children are all a part of parenthood. It is all a part of loving a child.
So, I now understand the wisdom of my own Mother in teaching me the freedom of knowing who the ones that come from you really are and your place in their lives. Perhaps she taught me the most valuable lesson of the ultimate love of a mother for her child.
An excerpt from "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said,
"Speak to us of Children".
And he said:
Your children are not your children,
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but are 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.
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