Tag Archives: Independence

Living Arrows in January: how we get lost

Photo 04-01-2016, 1 05 26 pm (800x640)

(Living Arrows is a portrait project run by Hayley at the Shutterflies blog, capturing the little moments of childhood. The title comes from a Kahlil Gibran poem called ‘Children’, which I’ve reproduced at the end of this post. It’s supposed to be one a week, which I definitely don’t have the staying power for, alas; but I thought doing one a month would be a nice record and encourage me to get the big camera out more often. Hope you enjoy!)

I’ve read a couple of articles recently about letting children off the leash. Not straining to fill their every hour or worrying constantly about their development, just letting them entertain themselves and be children.

I think it’s a great idea in theory. Or maybe a great idea in a few years. Though I try my hardest to shoo the boys towards their toys and independent play, they want to include me constantly. They ping back towards me one after the other, wanting my opinion, my approval, my ability to put right an injustice. It’s like they’re a gang, and I’m the ringleader. Well, obviously, I can’t deny my street cred. It’s not that I want to be a helicopter parent; it’s just that, at the moment, they and I don’t know any other way to be.

The only activity they truly don’t need me for is screen time. So I save that for the witching hour, otherwise we’d never eat dinner, ever.

That’s why I like getting out to the woods (also because if I go too long without walking I start feeling claustrophobic, which I realised for the first time this Christmas. Blimey. Am I one of those people now?). They don’t need my approval for puddles, or stone-throwing, or poking things with giant sticks. It doesn’t matter if they get dirty, though my car and the washing machine weep bitter tears when we get home.

They still both like to keep me in sight. But it’s as though the very short pieces of elastic that connect me to both of them get to stretch out a little.

And T kept his bear hat on for a good half hour this time. Re-sult.

Living Arrows

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.

Kahlil Gibran

Two halves

This morning, while Henry was in the bath, we played Bodies.

Where are Mummy’s eyes? And where are Henry’s eyes? What about Henry’s feet? And where are Mummy’s feet? 

He gets mixed up a lot. Is this my nose or his? His knee or my knee? Often, he points to me when he means himself. I suppose, entangled as we always are, it’s hard to tell the difference. He’s not much for cuddling – too much to do – but we live our days in a web of contact: between every activity, he runs back to grin in my face, and pats me to check I’m still solid. He doesn’t see any reason why he can’t do all of the things I do, or why I shouldn’t be carrying him while I do them. We are the same, after all. He strokes his own face while I put on my make up in the mornings, and fiddles busily at the worktop in the kitchen while I clean. I carry him home in my arms when he’s run out of puff. When he’s tired, he starts pinching my sleeve between his fingers, like I’m the comfort blanket. I suppose I was, once.

But this is an odd phase, because most days now he’s infuriated by my closeness. He doesn’t want to open his mouth for every spoon I point at him, or follow always where my hand pulls. He has his own tumbleweed path to find, and often I’m in the way. This business of wanting, of having wants and making them happen, is a heady experience. Before now he hardly realised that it was possible to go left when I said right. He can’t get enough of it. There’s a reason I’m reading three toddler tantrum books this month. For the first time, our ties are beginning to chafe.

It makes me smile – when I’m not banging my head against the wall – because this independence that he wants and doesn’t want will grow until it takes him right out of my door, to his own loves and adventures. I will send him out to be his own person and make decisions he can be proud of. He’ll visit me on Sunday afternoons and tell me about his job, his girlfriend and his electricity bills. He’ll have to find goodness and resolve for himself, and there is so much to find. I hope he will make something really fine.

But oh, please, not yet. Give me time. Give me a few years of comfort-blanket rocking and chubby arms around my neck. Give me a few more years where he gets confused whose nose is whose, where we sit quiet together so I can hear his heartbeat and he can hear mine. We go back a long way, me and this boy, to the very beginnings. Just for now, I want to keep carrying him home.


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