CPN | My Children are Not My Children

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My Children are Not My Children

In the rhythm of my year, Mother’s Day always falls within or slightly after Cameron Week – the period we spend recognizing her birthday (May 4, 1999) and the day she died (May 9, 2001). The timing has been particularly poignant this year because of the stages of my children and because of how considering each is making me feel.

In the true definition of the word, I am blessed with four children.

Taylor is my first child. She was four years old when Cameron died. She is now 27. She and her boyfriend are moving soon from being within easy driving distance to the other side of the country. This is a milestone in my life.

Cameron is my second child. She was born 25 years ago and died 23 years ago. This is a milestone in my life.

Eliza is my third child. She was 10 weeks old when Cameron died. She is now 23 and is graduating college. My responsibility to ensure that my two living children receive a good education – with a lot of help from grandparents – has been met. Eliza is fortunate to have an exciting job lined up, many many states away. This is a milestone in my life.

Courageous Parents Network is my fourth child. I founded it 13 years after Cameron’s death. CPN is now 10 years old and thriving. This is a milestone in my life.

Two of my children will be plane rides away.

One of my children flew away 23 years ago.

And my fourth child, CPN, is on the cusp of a great leap forward if I can lead it there.

I am so proud of my children. I am genuinely happy for them. I am lucky to say that the two living children are thriving; the changes in their lives are healthy and appropriate and hopeful.

I am also feeling really really sad; these milestones involve physical losses for me. The geography between me and Taylor and Eliza will require more planning and intention and time to see and hold them. The time differences will require more coordination for Facetime chats.

My grief is triggered and I make myself look at it and see it for what it is: the loss that comes with having to let go of the things I love most, whether it’s for good reasons or not. As Mary Oliver writes in In Blackwater Woods:

“To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”

The tears come and I see them as a symptom of what motherhood can look like at this age and stage – when our children are grown and flown and there is more change on the horizon.

A generous, wise and spiritual friend always sends a letter on May 9 to mark Cameron’s Anniversary. In this year’s letter, she included the poem “On Children” from The Prophet by Kahil Gibran.

“And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
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.”

I have re-read this poem multiple times in the past few days.

My children are not my children. Their existence physically and spiritually are manifestations of Life at a level beyond time and space, and certainly beyond me.

I am simply the bow.

My job as the mother to my four children is to be stable.

This I can do.


(the photo associated with this blog is of a painting Frozen Pond by Karine Leger, that my husband Charlie and I recently bought. A good friend observed that he saw it as representing our children).