When they must go out to follow their bliss, simply let your children fly away…
Yesterday went in a blur. All day Vaani and I were reminiscing the growing up years of our children Aashirwad and Aanchal. The four of us are very close to each other. Yet Aash has been away from home for 9 years now and Aanch too left yesterday.
As parents, we both are experiencing a completely empty nest for the first time. Surely, we are not the first set of parents to feel this way. And undoubtedly we are not the last. Feeling the emptiness at home, however, has been an interesting, learning experience.
Over a drink last evening, I marveled at Lebanese American writer-poet Khalil Gibran’s wisdom and insight. His unputdownable verse – “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 although they are with you, they belong not to you…” – is what is helping us accept our new reality. Besides, as we are realizing, being an empty nester brings a spiritual flavor to one’s role as a parent.
I now recognize that parenting is not just a responsibility. To be a parent is actually a blessing. Because it gives you an opportunity to mold another Life by inculcating values in your child. And then when the child is ready for the world, you give your child wings and let her or him fly away. That’s how you learn to practice detachment in Life.
In Vaani’s and my case, we see another very beautiful dimension playing out. Which is that since children are Life’s longing for itself, Life always steps in to take care of them, even if you as a parent can’t contribute in a given context. As parents, we have not been able to support the college education for either Aash or Aanch. Our enduring bankruptcy leaves us numb each month – we never quite have enough even for our monthly living expenses. Yet, through this past decade that we have been bankrupt, we have had Aash’s under-graduate Program at the University of Chicago funded through remarkably generous people. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) And now Aanch’s grad school tenure is being covered by a very benevolent sponsor who is paying her tuition and related costs. What this essentially means is that Life really takes care of and provides for all that it creates. From this experience, Vaani and I have learnt that if as parents we let go and don’t let our insecurities or ego come in the way of our children’s aspirations, Life will always unquestionably, undeniably, give them what they need.
Also, as we are learning from Aashirwad’s experiences over the past two years, when children go away to pursue their dreams and build their Life their way, they are bound to face challenges. Naturally, as parents, we want to protect our children. But what we are understanding is that you can’t do anything to change your children’s Life design. If they have to go through a catharsis or a challenge, they have to. There is no escaping it. But please don’t conclude that a Life challenge is a curse or a punishment. It is Life’s way of coaching someone to be stronger, wiser and happier. The earlier we recognize this truth about Life, the more equanimity we will have as parents.
Bottomline, we only have one key responsibility towards our children – we must guide and inspire them to be good human beings. We must raise them with the right values and let them go wherever their bliss takes them. While we can pray for them, we can’t prevent Life from serving them crises. So, there’s no point in pining for them or worrying about them or wanting to keep them with us so that we can protect them – because, however hard we may try, we can’t ever live their lives for them!