Let Your Bending in the Archer's Hand be for Gladness
I think for most of us, at the moment we are given our children, we are aware of their holiness, their other-wordlyness, the fact that they are a gift, lent to us for an indeterminate time. We cry, we stare into their soul-deep eyes, we can't tear our eyes away from them. Even as a doula at births of other people's children, I have always been aware, have never ceased to be moved to tears, by the sheer incredible power of this truth: They are a gift, we are the recipients. They are here to teach us if we will become quiet and listen to their lessons.
Before I became a mother, I was another person entirely. This other person is still a part of me as the bud is part of the flower. I have sprung outward, filling up the space around my previously tiny soul, nurtured from the lessons I've learned from my children. I used to be incredibly selfish. Well, truth be told, I can still be incredibly selfish, but my children have taught me to think of others first. When I give the last two popsicles in the freezer to them and don't even think of feeling slighted, I know just one fragment of my growth.
Unschooling is a continuation of this gift. Instead of shifting to a mindset that says "Now I must teach my children, or send them off to be taught", I can continue, every day, to learn from them, with them, beside them. I can share my own knowledge, my hard-gained wisdom, when they're open to learning from it. And they are surprisingly open to doing so, knowing that I have no agenda but love. Our interactions flow between us, not in a parent-who-knows-everything controlling the child, but in a hey-here's-what-I-know-that-might-help fashion. The knowledge flows in both directions, too, that's the most wonderful part.
I recently overheard a conversation at the video game console between my son and daughter. My son was telling her sotto voce "While mom is cooking, I'm going to level up her character for her. She's pretty good at this stuff, but she keeps getting killed and I want to make it easier on her." We've been playing through the Lord of the Rings Gamecube game together and he's right, on most campaigns it is my untimely demise that brings us down before we conquer a level. It's so sweet that he would think to help me out in this way, even sweeter still that he would strive to keep this quiet in his childlike way (sotto voce in a 9 year old is often not very sotto) so as to spare my feelings. But my feelings are not hurt. Later, I told him I was thankful for his help. I know that he is so much more able to figure things out in these games for me. Growing up in the impoverished video world of the '70's (remember Pong??), I don't have the reflexes or multi-tasking ability to concentrate on all the things I need to in order to succeed. He, on the other hand, seems able to whack steadily away at the orcs, remember to fire at the approaching mini-boss, keep an eye out for the Mumakil we need to stop before they get to Merry and Eowyn, and understand the layout and the geography of the game to know where we need to be running to. Me, I would just run around in circles without him.
I could type an endless list of the things I've learned from my kids: the true meaning of generosity, how to love Celtic fiddle music, how unlimited imagination can be, the fact that our children come from some other place, a place where they've chosen us (I might have to write more on that one some other time), how to love with all your heart. There's probably not enough room on the Blog servers for everything I've learned from my kids. Mostly, I am grateful to unschooling, for allowing the gift of my children to be present in my life every day; for keeping my brain open to the idea that they are not vessels to be filled with knowledge, but fully realized beings here to both teach and learn; and for the greater worlds they have connected me to.
When I was pregnant with my first, I saved this often-quoted gem in my email folders. It rings more true with every day I get to spend with my 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;
--from The PROPHET, by Kahlil Gibran