“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.”
-Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Too often, I think, we try to make someone else’s heart our heart. We try to make our passions the passions they think (or rather, we think they think) we’re supposed to have. We try to make their opinions our opinions; we try to twist our talents into the talents they expect from us. We do this with all sorts of love ones. We do this with parents. I’ve seen a lot of students whose primary goal seems to be to please (or, in that dangerous, heart-hurting phrase, “earn the love of;” but all we humans are flawed, and I don’t think we can earn love, only receive it and offer it as a beautiful gift) their father or their mother. I have the utmost respect and love for my parents, and for all parents. They give us the materials of life. But if a child uses those materials only as her parents tell her, if she tries to be theirs, instead of her own, then I think she hurts herself, the world, and in the end, her parents.
The child cannot have any heart except her own. If she tries, she’ll spend her life pretending. She’ll live in the shallow water near someone else’s shore, and never find the depths of what she has inside.
She’ll give less to the world, too. Our duty is not just to ourselves: we become something for ourselves for the world, and offer our passion, our talents, and our work to those around us. Our duty is to find how to use what we have to help with what the world needs. If I advise and insist and am disappointed in my daughter until she becomes a heroic English teacher (like me!), instead of the doctor she thinks of being, she’ll have less to offer the world. When we hide half our tools, letting them rust as we make poor replicas of someone else’s talents, we cannot be very good helpers or healers.
In the end, she’ll hurt her parents. She’ll hurt them slowly, by being a little less, day by day, than she could be. She’ll hurt them in one big shattering, if her father ever realizes that in hoping for his daughter he’s held back her hopes. A child must live her own life, must have her own heart pump her own blood, must have her own opinions lead her own choices. She must do that for herself, for all of us, and for the parents who love her.
I’m heart-warmingly grateful to my parents. I am made from them, in both body and mind. I am the person they raised. I often go to them for guidance, and learn from what they share. I have the tools they gave me through all of their lessons and loves and encouragements. I honor them and love them by using these tools where I can, as well as I can. I honor all of the fathers and mothers who came before them by believing in this world, believing in myself and my ability to help, and by following life’s beautiful dream of living.