On My Daughter’s 30th Birthday

Thirty years ago today my wife and I welcomed into the world a beautiful daughter. I cannot begin to express how successful she has been or what joy she has brought to us. And to think that now, thirty years later, she has her own beautiful infant daughter. Having children is life renewing itself. Still, my wife and I are thirty years older too, and all of our parents, who themselves were proud grandparents, are no more. Not all is good.

All this makes me think about is the process of having and raising children, how you have influence but not control over the outcome. For try as you may you find the forces of society, culture, history, genes and fate transcend, and often undermine your efforts to care for them. What if war, disease, or violence strike? How will you protect them then? Yet even without such calamities, parents enter uncharted waters. How we wanted all of our children to be perfectly happy … and yet no one is. All of this has reminded me of some simple poetry I read as a teenager:

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. ~ Kahlil Gibran

However, the situation is even worse than this, for there is no supreme archer. As parents, you are the archer, and your most careful aim will surely miss your mark, which will certainly cause sadness in later years. Still, if you have done your best to aim well, you will have hit the target even if not the bulls-eye. In this, you should take consolation. You did your best and you did not miss completely. And if life as a whole continues to do this it will get closer and closer to the bull’s-eye. At least let us hope so.

Happy 30th birthday to a most beautiful daughter. Continue to be strong and happy and brave, the traits that express your most true self.

I love you, Katie.

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