Has anyone ever read Here and Now: Living in the Spirit by the great, modern spiritual writer, Henri J.M. Nouwen? I’ve been reading it while G naps during the day and I just finished a chapter on family that was so beautifully worded that I feel compelled to share it:
Children are a gift.
Being a parent is like being a good host to a stranger. While we may think that our children are like us, we are continually surprised at how different they are. We can be gladdened by their intelligence, their artistic gifts, or their athletic prowess, or saddened by their slowness in learning, their lack of coordination, or their “odd” interests. In many ways we don’t know our children.
We didn’t create our own children, nor do we own them. This is good news. We don’t need to blame ourselves for their problems, nor should we claim ourselves their successes.
Children are a gift from God. They are given to us so that we can offer them a safe, loving place to grow to inner and outer freedom. They are like strangers who ask for hospitality, become good friends, and then leave again to continue their journey. They bring immense joy and immense sorrow precisely because they are gifts. And a good gift, as a proverb says, is “twice given.”
The gift we receive, we have to give again. When our children leave us to study, to look for work, to marry, to join a community, or simply to become independent, sorrow and joy touch each other. Because it is then that we feel deeply that “our” child isn’t really “ours” but given to us to become a true gift to others.
It is so hard to give our children their freedom- especially in this violent and exploitative world. We so much want to protect them from all possible dangers. But we cannot. They do not belong to us. They belong to God, and one of the greatest acts of trust in God is letting our children make their own choices and find their own way.
I have a feeling I will re-read these powerful words countless times, as a reminder to myself, to celebrate as my children grow more independent, despite the sadness that I feel every single day, wishing I could freeze these moments in time… wishing they would never change. But, truly, what wonderful gifts they are.