Going back to school is like standing in front of a fire hose on a hot day: refreshing but entirely too much to handle all at once. I should have planned ahead for my post this week – had something powerful waiting in the wings – but I’ve been buying school supplies and tidying syllabi, closing down summer, and planning last hurrays. This week I fought with my computer and lost. I broke up the last of the backseat fistfights and moved into a new office. I love going back to school – I love school supplies and new students and un-sharpened pencils. New semesters look hopeful and open on my white desk calendar. But I’m tired and overwhelmed. I already miss my little boys and the long evenings we enjoyed without homework or bedtime. I know that my school brain is somewhere waiting for me, but I can’t seem to find any extra words to describe that crazy combination of excitement and anxiety that comes with a new school year. But I need words – from somewhere – to ease the sharp edges of chaos.
Earlier this summer, some friends asked me to be godmother to their infant son. We gathered for a quiet, outdoor ceremony in the mountains near our homes. We stood in the rain and read to the baby from our favorite books. My husband and I chose a short poem written by a friend and an excerpt from Kahlil Gibran’s book The Prophet. My copy of “On Children” is dirty and frayed; before it was tacked to my refrigerator, it hung in both my mother’s and my grandmother’s kitchens.
All week Gibran’s words have played through my head. They are familiar. They corner my chaos and moderate my need for control. They could be applied to parenting, or growing up.
Or they could be a reminder to teachers going back to work.
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.
– Kahil Gibran