Philip Larkin had a few things to say about the kind of parent-child relationship with parents imposing their worldview on the impressionable young things:
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
Out of all the relationships we develop, nurture and overcome in life, the one between parent and child is perhaps the trickiest. If you’re a parent, it’s natural to think you know best. You have more life experience after all.
It may seem natural to impose your thoughts of right and wrong onto your child.
Consider this though. What you judge to be right or wrong is based on your life experience ONLY. It was shaped by your generation, your environment and by your limitations in perceiving this thing called life that’s all around us.
Children come with the promise of a new life and with that they discover what experiences make them happy and fulfilled. We must as parents let them explore and give them the tools to make changes in themselves to realise a life in line with who they are as people.
Let them be artists if that’s what they are. Let them be entrepreneurs. Don’t force them down the academic path if they are more practical. Show them how they can realise success in any chosen field. There’s no rule that says one will be happier in one profession over another. All evidence points to the fact that one will be happier and wealthier working with their unique strengths.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know what’s best for your child based on what you’ve experienced in your lifetime. You may inadvertantly limit their understanding of what this life is all about.
Don’t give your thoughts, give them your love.
Kahlil Gibran’s poem On Children is the one that inspires me to do better than Larkin’s pessimism:
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.
What about you?
What have you experienced in your own relationship with your parents?
How are you working on improving these relationships?