It was around the same time five years ago when my son was born. Summer was over, schools had re-opened and fall had starting setting in. The world was moving to a faster beat. As I sat learning the features of the brand new person I was holding in the spicy autumn air, I had a realization: we were only going to get sixteen summers together as a family before he would go away to college. Sixteen summers before he would have places to go, friendships to keep…
The realization did not come with any resentment, it’s what we all want as parents- that our children should go out into the world, do, grow, learn. But it did come with a real measure of time. While all the other seasons would bear the burden and the boundaries of school, work, homework and assignments, summer was going to be his, and ours to share with him. In the words of Kahlil Gibran:
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.
As parents, I realized, we would need to nurture and nourish him until he was ready to leave home, and leave he must, for that is how it has to be. He would always come back, because the ties between parents and children are strong, but we wouldn’t have Summer’s gift of unchained time.
With that realization came ideas. If the biggest gift that I had was the gift of unencumbered time with him, that’s the gift I needed to give back to my son each summer. I made a few rules. Each summer, we’d take a trip with him to a new country, so he could see new ways of being. We’d spend time with our families so he could see old ways, our ways. We’d know our environment better so that he could see his surroundings in a new light. And then of course, we’d read together so that he could visit the existing and the imagined, the known and the undiscovered.
One of the highlights of our summer this year was reading E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web together. We sang, we mimicked, we laughed and we felt sad together as we read this beautiful book about love, friendship, greed, loss, death, loyalty, change…a book about life. I felt that five was the exact right age to read this with a child and my son wanted to start reading it again the day after we finished.
We will again, very soon my love. Until then, I can hear the crickets singing in my ear, “Summer is over and gone…”