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The Dharma of Parenting
There are few things in life more challenging and demanding than parenting a child. Life is tough enough just taking care of ourselves. Having a child means you are not only responsible for the survival of another life; you are responsible for another mind. And that’s the hardest part of parenting. Why do we have children? Is it purely the inbuilt biological need to propagate the human race or to fulfil the societal fantasy of marriage, house, kids as the mark that we have “arrived”? Is it to have someone to love or who will be dependent on us and make up for the deficit of love in our lives or take care of us in our old age? Most of us have kids as an expression of love and certainly, it does require enormous self-sacrifice. Before investigating the perspective of Vedanta on the duty of a parent, some background to attitudes on parenting is helpful.
Despite more equality in gender roles these days, much of the physical and mental burden still falls to women. Today we have the Instagram influencers’ vision of the ideal mother with perfectly groomed, smiling children set against a backdrop of a designer home with designer appliances or frolicking on an idyllic beach. Diametrically opposed but hidden from view is the brain-numbing exhaustion, performance anxiety, loss of libido, financial and emotional/mental burden, not to mention the loss of freedom. Mothers additionally must cope with a body that has undergone enormous changes. Research shows that not even the training extreme athletes undergo is as exacting and stressful physically and mentally as carrying a child to term. All mothers are Olympic champions.
The average baby demands adult attention of one kind or another every twenty seconds. New mothers lose an average of seven hundred hours of sleep during the first year. Marital satisfaction plummets seventy per cent, while the risk of maternal depression more than doubles. While having children can bring the experience of the purest, selfless and most exquisite love, the rewards don’t always seem to match the cost. The gritty real talk of comedians and writers describing the early days of motherhood as “a never-ending festival of feces” rings true for many beleaguered parents.
We have been talking about the tension between the ideal and the reality of parenting for centuries. More so for women, who are still today, expected to feel fulfilled exclusively by their maternal role as though motherhood confers some kind of special status. But this has not always been the case. In the Middle Ages, adults believed small children were little devils. “Many educators,” writes the sociologist Sharon Hays in her book The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood, “reminded parents of the child’s natural propensity for evil.” These are strong sentiments.
Though no longer considered demonic, in the Puritan New England of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, children were nonetheless considered to be innately amoral, “fallen” creatures. There certainly wasn’t widespread pressure to find pure joy in baby care, nor were children automatically given the status of mini gods as they often are today. In those days, to be saved from their depravity and live a righteous life, children needed the strong moral guidance of their fathers. Mothers, valued for their fertility and praised for their homemaking skills, were considered “too emotional” and “weak” to raise children.
By the early nineteenth century, what historians call “the cult of true womanhood” appeared. The notion that it was the duty of men to face the gross, morally suspect outside world of moneymaking and politics, while morally superior women kept the home and family pure. Respectable, white, Christian, middle-class women were expected to find fulfillment and power in their positions as wives and mothers. Excluded from the cult of true womanhood were all working-class women, regardless of race. They always worked, therefore, were not accorded any kind of societal respect or support for raising their own children yet were often forced to leave their own babies to help raise those of the wealthy.
With the cult of true womanhood, child-rearing manuals proliferated. They informed good Christian women that “every irritable feeling should be restrained” because everything a mother did or did not do would mark their child “eternally,” marring their souls and damaging them for life. The pressure to guiltily repress every bad feeling while also raising unblemished children was (and still is today) enormous. The diaries and letters of women from the mid-1800s express emotions that could have been written today, save for the outdated language. “I fear I am not very charitable towards babies,” wrote Loula Kendall Rogers after the birth of her first child in 1864, “as I find myself at such times wishing for a lodge in some vast wilderness, where the cry of babies might never reach me more.”
Many women expressed great ambivalence towards their difficult children, added to growing disappointment in spouses whom they expected to be more helpful. One woman who was so overwhelmed by the demands of being a mother wrote in her diary: “I declare if I tho’t I was to be thus occupied for the rest of my life, I would – I was going to say – lie down & die.” There are few parents, past or present, who have not shared these sentiments at some point if they are honest. But we are not supposed to show these feelings because it makes us “bad” parents. It seems that to qualify as a good parent one must become almost superhuman.
The Victorian child-rearing manuals of the Freudian era, describing the ideal mother whose “voice is always gentle” and “face is always kind,” morphed into the über-efficient mother of the 1920s and ’30s, who was not only responsible for the physical and moral development of her children but who was also on the hook for their psychological health. Parenting recommendations became aggressively scientific and still are today. Since that time, all babies are expected to meet prescribed “milestones” and if they do not, the mother is somehow to blame, things like feeding and sleeping times, weight and when the baby walks or talks are all strictly prescribed, causing many mothers great anxiety.
The pressure put on women to breastfeed was and still is, enormous, leaving many women tormented if they cannot manage it for whatever reason. Today, with the advent of social media and the proliferation of online advice, mothers face more uncertainty than ever before. Most women encounter the pious breast-feeding crusaders (über-boobers), not to mention the natural birth self-righteous sanctimommies. And may God save us all from the opinions and desires of the ferocious helicopter mommies.
Yet, as much as social media may be perpetuating an unrealistic myth about the joys of parenting, it is also expanding our narrow and confining definition of the “ideal mother.” It is encouraging more of a dialogue about fathers doing their fair share of childcare and parenting. Concepts like sharing the “emotional and mental labour” involved in raising kids are going mainstream. It is no longer a stigma for a man to be involved not only at the birth of the child but also in its daily care. The term “we” are pregnant is common now. Different and unconventional family structures are a part of the cultural conversation, such as same-sex couples becoming parents.
But beyond babyhood, which has its exquisite rewards along with its manic demands, the greatest challenges for parents come as their kids start their schooling, which for many, commences in the second or third year. That’s when kids face the minefield of expectations, difficulties and failures in wait for them as they navigate childhood, puberty and early adolescence. Despite the demands of babies, gone are the warm fuzzy days of hugs and kisses and enter the hell days of individuating confusion and rebellion. Anyone who has been through this knows just how difficult it can be to help a child through this rite of passage in a healthy way without risk to one’s sanity or the child’s self-esteem.
Thanks to Freud’s alarming theories on child sexuality which warned parents of the dangers of allowing children to get too attached to their mothers or vice versa, many mothers still believe it is morally wrong to expect too much devotion from their children. While there is truth to this idea, today we have the maternal and parental uncertainty with few parents trusting their innate common sense and their ability to parent well enough, if not perfectly. Many more parents feel overwhelmingly fearful and trapped by the responsibility of parenting than are willing to admit. There has been almost a reversal of roles in recent times, with children dominating and terrorizing inept parents into submission to their will.
No Perfect Parenting Style
There is no such thing as one size fits all for bringing up kids. We all have different values and life karma. If there is one thing developmental psychologists agree on, it is that parents don’t have to be perfect parents, brilliant psychologists or supremely gifted teachers to succeed. Instead, parents must just be good enough, providing their kids with stable and predictable rhythms. It is true that all kids really need is consistency, love and boundaries. Parents need to be in tune with their kids’ needs without pandering to them, combining warmth, kindness and discipline, establishing secure emotional bonds that kids can rely on in the face of stress. Parents need to be there to provide living examples of how to cope with the problems of the world so that their children can develop unconscious models. But what is all too often forgotten is that more than anything, parents need to model being there for themselves. What use is a parent to a child if it cannot model that?
Children are not fragile. Your job as a parent is not to give up on being you. In fact one of the most important things you can teach your kids is that they do not need you to define who they are, that they can trust themselves. Yes, you need to teach them good values, but parents can mess up, lose their tempers, even ignore their kids’ needs sometimes. Providing the overall pattern of care is reliable and consistent, children still feel secure. Parents can, and at times need to, deliver stern punishments. If the conversation is coherent, predictable and fair, the attachment will still be secure. When parents achieve a healthy attunement with their kids, a rush of oxytocin, the love hormone, floods through the brains of both child and parent. This is when the hardship involved in parenting is all worthwhile.
Securely attached children tend to cope with stressful situations well. Avoidantly attached children tend to have parents who are emotionally withdrawn and psychologically unavailable. This kind of parent does not communicate well with their children or establish emotional rapport. Though they will often say the right things, their words are not consistent with physical gestures that communicate affection. In response, their children develop an internal working model in which they must take care of themselves and preemptively withdraw, having learned not to rely on others.
There are many ways to fail at being a good parent, and many do. But unless one has had children, it’s impossible to fully understand or appreciate what it’s like to care for an infant until you have one screaming in your arms in the middle of the night. Often, night after night, for months on end. Add to that the physical, emotional, mental and financial burden and you have a good recipe for burn-out disaster, not to mention the stress of trying to keep an all-knowing, ungrateful and narcissistic toddler or teenager in line! It’s amazing that more parents don’t fail utterly or abandon their kids if you think about it. Child-rearing can pose almost insane demands upon the parent. Yet since becoming a parent is now more of an active choice for many parents and women in particular than it has been previously, the pressure to find it rewarding still remains a norm. At the same time, the nuclear family is still supposed to be able to raise kids without any outside help.
Nature or Nurture
Much like the hotly contested issue of creation versus evolution theories, there are few areas of science more fiercely contested than the issue of what makes us who we are. Are our parents, or we as parents, to blame for the way we or our kids turn out or are we and our kids predisposed to be shaped by the environment we are born into? Are we products of our environments or the embodiment of our genes? Is nature the governing force behind our behaviour or is it nurture? While almost everyone agrees that it’s a mixture of both, there has been no end of disagreement about which is the dominant influence. It’s a disagreement made yet more fraught by the political and societal concerns that often underlie it.
Traditionally, those who have tended to see the environment as the critical factor because it ties in with notions of egalitarianism, see inequalities as explained not by inherent differences but by social conditions. There is someone or something to blame. Whereas those who lean towards a more Darwinian genetic view believe different social outcomes are accounted for by differences of suitability to the environment, i.e. nature is the dominant factor. The downside is that such an understanding has in the past led to the promotion of eugenics – selective breeding, sterilization and, in the case of the Nazis, wholesale murder. As a consequence, a shadow was cast across genetic research into human behavior.
Geneticist Robert Plomin, a pioneer of what’s called “hereditarian” science, in his new book Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are, takes recent genetic research and draws some provocative conclusions. Plomin waited thirty years to publish his book because it took him that long to conduct the research necessary to prove his case. But the main reason for the delay, he admits, was cowardice. For a long time, he says, it was “dangerous” and even forbidden to study “the genetic origins of differences in people’s behaviour and to write about it in scientific journals.” Mainstream psychology promoted the view that everything was environmental. From stuttering to schizophrenia, all our problems were due to what our mother or father did or did not do in the first years of our life. Parents have been thoroughly “on the hook” for their children’s psychological well-being for a long time. Many adults spend decades of their lives in therapy trying to resolve their childhood issues. Many never do.
Yet many scientists besides Plomin believes that Freud and his ilk sent society looking in the wrong place for answers to the question of what makes us as we are. They hold that the key to personality traits lies not in how we were treated by our parents, but rather in what we inherited biologically from them, namely the genes in our DNA. Science has found that genetic heritability accounts for 50% of the psychological differences between us, from personality to mental abilities, which leaves 50% that should be accounted for by the environment. However, research shows that most of that 50% is not attributable to the type of environmental influences that can be planned for or readily affected – i.e. it’s made up of unpredictable events. And of the environmental influences that can be moderated, much of it is really an expression of genetics. Though environmental effects are important, it turns out that DNA differences are the major systematic source of psychological differences between us. Which means that we cannot do much about them. Oops.
In other words, whatever life circumstances we are born into, whether adverse or positive, we will respond to them according to our inbuilt genetic predisposition. Nobody is to blame for how we were treated as kids. Genetics primed us to respond positively or negatively to life’s events. This explains why some people born into the worst conditions turn out unscathed and others do not. Or vice versa. Though these scientific conclusions are about individuals rather than groups, they are in keeping with the teachings of Vedanta. What the scripture says about our conditioning concurs with the genetic findings, and I will explain why presently.
Ever since the development of genetics a century and a half ago, the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure 65 years ago, and the mapping of the human genome 15 years ago, there has been an awareness that science was delving into secrets of Promethean flammability. While there has always been widespread acceptance that genes determine our physiology for good and bad, much greater controversy has surrounded the subject of our psychology – our behaviour and personality traits. If there is nobody to blame and there is not much we can do about our conditioning, what’s the solution?
It’s one thing to state that genes largely determine how thin or how musical we are, for instance. Or how vulnerable we are to, say, heart disease or myopia. But it’s another to argue that genes also largely determine how intelligent, socially and emotionally adjusted, how spiritual, successful, rich or poor we are. We prefer to think of such traits as social constructs, brought about by the familial and social environments into which we happen to be born or not. After all, if one child is subject to parental love and attention in comfortable, secure surroundings with plenty of intellectual stimulation, while another grows up in conditions of neglect and social deprivation, we expect the former to perform better at school and in life in general. And, by and large, they do. But now what science makes clear is that this has less to do with social factors than biological ones – genetic inheritance, not conditions of upbringing, that makes the most difference.
This is a difficult concept to accept for several reasons. One is that we can all come up with examples in which the environment would have a profound effect on outcome. For example, if you isolated a child from all human contact on an island from birth to puberty and then introduced it to bustling city life, it would not be surprising if the child would have a hard time coping and display distinct learning difficulties. But nonetheless, science argues that it is genetics causing the greatest variation in learning and coping abilities, not the home environment. Nobody is arguing that these factors do have an effect, but it’s much smaller than popularly held beliefs. Inborn predisposition is still what causes environmental effects.
The second and perhaps more disturbing conclusion from these findings is that they do seem to open the door to grave and concerning justifications for abuse, inequality, and exploitation. The counter-argument is that if, as a society, we accept the heritability argument, then it will lead to blaming the poor for their own plight and privileging the rich for their good fortune. Or exonerating criminals and pedophiles for their crimes because they couldn’t help themselves. While that may be true from a scientific point of view, and from the big-picture perspective of Vedanta, that does not release us from the law of karma – cause and effect. We live in a lawful universe of cause and effect. The cause is the effect and vice versa. This is not an argument for shirking our responsibilities as parents or as anything else.
Perhaps the most radical aspect of hereditary findings has little to do with the issue of equality but instead seeks to rethink our treatment of mental health. At the moment, mental health follows the classical medical model by diagnosing a disorder and then seeking to deal with its cause. But genetic research suggests there are no clear lines in mental disorders, rather a spectrum on which we are all genetically placed. Critics hold that going with nature versus nurture holds out no hope and that the belief that nature is the main factor in how we turn out offers a far richer narrative. It may be full of parental failures and abuse, social maltreatment and educational neglect, but we not only have a right to feel a victim of or aggrieved by our circumstances, but there is also something we can do about it. There is a way out. But is there?
Nature, Nurture and Vedanta
The scientific findings for the nurture versus nature argument as the dominant influence in our lives is borne out by the teachings of Vedanta. But what science overlooks is that there is actually no difference between the cause and the effect. The cause is the effect in a different form. Nature is nurture and nurture is nature. It is the chicken and the egg story. Which comes first? In as much as there is a person, that person incarnates with a certain karmic load and conditioning, or inborn tendencies. It will be born to parents and environmental circumstances that facilitate its karma. As it acts out its karma, the person reinforces its inborn tendencies which in turn create more karma. It’s a circular argument, like the ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail. It may sound a bit grim, but the best part of it is that it does away with the heavy burden of blame and frees us to think about our story very differently.
Yes, it opens up a huge can of worms, but then the whole purpose of Vedanta, the science of consciousness, is to see the can and the worms for what they are: only apparently real. So your parents are not to blame for however they treated you. Nor is anyone else. The good or bad decisions we make about life are based on the kind of people we are born to be – the cards life dealt us. You came in the way you came in, you got what you needed to get and how you deal with that determines your state of mind and the quality of your life. This applies to your kids too. They got you because they deserve you, for better or worse. They must live out and resolve their karma, you cannot do that for them. End of story.
Does this mean that we are stuck being the person we are? Yes and no. It’s true that nobody makes themselves the way they are. But at the same time, genetics is not a one-way street. The environment affects our genetics and genetics affects our environment making changes both ways. And we can make changes in the programs that run our minds with Self-knowledge. Self-objectivity means we can manage our minds and their habitual patterns so that we do not keep repeating harmful behaviour.
Accepting our inborn nature minus blame is the first step to healing and cleaning up our karma, and essential to peace of mind. The next step is understanding that this world runs on natural laws that cannot be broken without consequences. The most important law is non-injury and to follow dharma, the laws of life, not to become better people, but for peace of mind. If you have the good fortune to have stumbled upon the teachings of Vedanta, you are indeed blessed because freedom is defined as freedom from and for the limited person. It is not about perfecting the person. The only way out of the mess of the apparent reality and the nature/nurture argument is to step out of it with Self-knowledge.
As far as the discussion goes in this chapter, which is what is your duty as a parent, how does the nature-nurture issue square up? Knowing that your kids are largely going to turn out the way they do regardless of what you do or don’t do, does this mean you have no responsibility as a parent? I think anyone with a modicum of common sense would understand that in the world of duality it’s never either/or. Everything is always both/and. You are ultimately not responsible for anyone’s karma but your own. Your needs are as important as your children’s needs and sacrificing them for your children may be necessary up to a point, but not always the best course of action, nor example, you could give them.
What children need from parents is guidance, not only on how to treat others but on how they should expect to be treated. So, if you allow them to abuse you, you are abusing your kids and yourself. If you do not teach good values or set healthy boundaries for your kids, don’t complain when they drive you crazy or ruin their lives and yours. Seeing as there is only you, your kids are you too. You have a duty as a parent which you must fulfil so as not to break dharma, and that does not include abuse in any form. It is a relief to realize that you are co-parenting with God, and you are not on the hook for your child’s ultimate happiness, mental health and future, as society would have you believe. But if you have kids, it is your duty to do your best for them. The best you can do for them includes the best you can do for yourself. The best you can do for them is to respect them and yourself by teaching them the meaning of respect and gratitude, pay attention to them, love them and give them knowledge. The rest is just details.
Teaching Children Vedanta
The five most important aspects to enlightened parenting:
1. The dharma of a parent.
2. Healthy values and boundaries.
3. Karma yoga, surrendering results of action, acceptance of results, the power of “no.”
4. A devotional attitude, practice or ritual to learn gratitude.
5. Mind management: a simplified teaching on the three gunas to objectify thoughts and feelings.
1. Parental Dharma: Teach Self-Reliance
Parental dharma is taking care of the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs of the children, biological or otherwise, that God, however you see it, has entrusted to our care. Parents should encourage children assigned to them to develop their innate gifts and talents so that they find and follow their inborn nature, talents and abilities. You cannot do this by forcing on them what you think they “should” be.” It is the dharma of a parent to teach children how to live in the world in such a way that they develop self-reliance and the self-confidence that permits them to make healthy choices for themselves and become independent of YOU as quickly as possible.
Many parents mistakenly believe that they are “loving”’ their children by overpowering them with love, but this is very often simply indulging their need for love from their children. It is abusive to your children to make them too dependent on you – they are supposed to leave you and grow independently of you. Most of the problems children experience is the result of neglectful, abusive or over-protective parents. Abuse takes many forms, and it can be in the form of abdication of your dharma as a parent because of your own needs, neglecting your children’s needs or over-catering to them. Child psychologists will tell you that when they see problem children it is almost always the parents who are the real problem, not the children.
While both science and Vedanta let you off the hook regarding your child’s inborn tendencies, you have a dharmic role to play. If you look around it is easy to see that most parents, with little or no Self-knowledge, have very little to teach their children, other than “raising” them. All too often, many so-called adults have never individuated or become mature themselves; they are still emotionally needy children. Becoming an adult is not a given; it is learned and developed as the child grows up, learning what it means to be an adult from a mature adult.
The greatest gift you can give children is Self-knowledge. However, beyond the basic human need for shelter and food, children need to know they are loved and seen. They need to know they can trust you because you will not lie to them. You may not be a perfect parent (whatever that is) but you are authentic, flawed or not. You are consistent and do your best for them, which may not always give them what they want or even be the best you can do sometimes, but as long as you are honest with them and love them, they accept fallibility with amazing equanimity.
Give generously to your children, but do not over-cater to them, as much as it may seem like they enjoy it. It does not serve them! Above all, do not abdicate your responsibility as the adult in charge to your child. They will not thank you for it!
2. Teach Healthy Values and Boundaries
Despite the nature versus nurture argument, we have a lot to model and teach our children. It is important to keep in mind that although you think they are “your” children, they are neither children nor are they yours really. They are the Self, appearing in small bodies entrusted to your care. The best you can do for them is to teach by example, by how you live and what you value. Children will take on their parents’ values by osmosis. It is impossible to hide from our children; they see everything.
Construct healthy boundaries for them and discipline them non-violently. Teach them honesty, integrity, consideration and self-reliance by modelling it for them. Children without boundaries or discipline are always insecure and unhappy as if they are playing on the face of a steep cliff face, terrified of falling off at any moment. Non-fanatical but firm and loving discipline is like constructing a wall on the cliff face so they can play where they want to, knowing they are protected. The wall or boundary that protects your child best is always knowledge, given to them in the form of honesty, good values, consistent and wise guidance, and of course unconditional love.
Sometimes it may take very firm parenting to protect your children and teach them boundaries. Children are born to test; it is a natural part of growing up. But, once you have set down a rule, be firm about it, do not negotiate with the child. A child that is allowed to control its parents is an unhappy child and you are not helping them mature responsibly.
3. Karma Yoga and the Power of NO
Karma yoga is common-sense knowledge because everyone actually knows that we are not in charge of results. This may be difficult for very young children to understand, but it is possible. When children are very demanding and want what they want, the way they want it, when they want it – teach them the value of accommodation and letting go of results. Do not yield to their gratuitous desires, for their sake. Be prepared to be uncomfortable as you hold firm to your position of “NO” when pushed to fulfil their gratuitous desires. Gently and firmly help your child to move from passion to dispassion, explaining God to them in whatever language works best. Don’t teach that God is a big daddy or mommy, but it is everything that they see and feel, the creator and sustainer of all life. Teach them to consider others in their environment, to be considerate and kind. Teach them the value of rules without compromising their value for freedom.
2. A Devotional and Gratitude Practice
A devotional practice helps children to connect with their inner divinity as the Self, to feel gratitude for what life brings them and to take responsibility for their own happiness. Even if it is just lighting a candle every day, creating an altar or sacred space where children feel they can connect and be still. If you have never done this, you will be surprised how receptive most children are to the sacred. Choose a symbol of God/life force for the altar; any religious or cultural symbol they are most familiar with works. If you are not religious or do not relate to spiritual icons, it can be a simple thing, just something they understand and to which they can relate, something beautiful. Even time in nature works. When children learn to pray, be silent and aware of their surroundings or just give thanks, it helps them to feel safe. This is particularly useful to help kids move through loss, like when someone close, even a beloved pet, dies.
Teach your kids gratitude by living it yourself. Make it a daily and fun ritual to tell them what you are grateful for that day and ask them to tell you what they are grateful for too. Especially when times are tough as that is when gratitude really counts. Bring awareness to this all-important aspect of life. A life lived without gratitude is a life of emotional poverty.
3. The Guna Teaching
The guna teaching requires you understanding the three major psychological influences or forces that shape the field of life and create the psychological order to which everyone is subject. These three forces are rajas, the force of passion, attachment, desire, and action; tamas, the material substance and the energy of confusion, sleep and endurance; and sattva, the energy of clarity, intelligence and creativity. Teaching guna yoga to children gives them a huge advantage in their lives. It helps them to live happy lives by dealing with the ups and downs of life in a healthy way. Learning to identify each guna produces the all-important ability to manage their minds, laying the groundwork for discrimination, the main ingredient for peace of mind. It helps young minds to objectify their thoughts and feelings.
The guna teaching can be easily adapted in a simple way for children by using language with which they can identify. Using comics, animation or Disney characters works well. The marketing world has long cottoned onto rajasic, tamasic and sattvic archetypes, to its advantage. When a child is in a particular guna, positive or negative, you can help them to gain objectivity by making a game of identifying the rajasic, tamasic or sattvic character they are acting out. You could make up your own names for rajas, tamas and sattva; make them paint or draw pictures of how they see these energies.
And lastly, remember what Kahlil Gibran put so beautifully in The Prophet on the subject of children:
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.