I’ve loved this story ever since the first time I heard it – maybe because giving birth seemed like such a cosmic event to me. For me this story is about motherhood. I’ve always felt so entrusted with my children-not in any way proprietary, but rather as if some awesome power had delivered them into my care – mine to love, but never own. Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese poet/philosopher said it more eloquently than I ever could:
“Your children are not your children.
They are 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 make 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 also loves the bow that is stable.”
There’s another story in the Krishna cannon in which Yashoda becomes completely frustrated with her son and tries to catch him and tie him up – to no avail. In this story too she must come to terms the fact that though her child looks like a little boy, he is in truth a divine being over which she has no power. Reading these stories again, I am struck by the similarity to the stories about Mary as a young mother found in the Apocrypha. Mary, too, has problems raising her baby god, who insisted on going his own way to the point of actually killing other children who harmed him.
Power may well be the operative word here. We’ve all heard the saying “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The child parent relationship can be viewed as a power struggle from day one. The danger of corruption inherent in this situation between large functioning adult and tiny helpless infant is obvious. The danger is equally obvious when we see large functioning adults emotionally in thrall to a tiny scrap of humanity. Happily for us in many families these two situations balance out into a fairly equitable balance of power. Still this doesn’t solve the problem of corruption. That can only be dealt with by a different kind of power – power that comes from within and is connected to the universe of all -that-is.
These stories seem to question the usefulness of punishment as a teaching tool; especially in the face of that inner power. We can of course get many human children to shut-up by punishing them, we can even get them to stop acting in certain ways, but are their minds changed, have they actually learned anything? Or have we really taught cunning, resentment, stealth and prevarication? These stories seem to be saying that the only effective energy one can bring to relationship is love.
They also teach that the sacred is all around us – the Kingdom of Heaven i.e. the cosmos, exists within every speck of dirt and inside every child.