Kahlil Gibran On Children

"On Children" by Kahlil Gibran

On Children by Kahlil Gibran

 

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.

 

QUESTIONS

Why did the writer believe that children "are not your children" but "the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself"? Explain.

Paraphrase the final stanza using modern language.

Create a rap of the poem. Adapt the language for a group of elementary schoolers.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Since this is a multi-part question, I will focus on some ideas to help out with two of the sections.

In this poem, Gibran suggests that children do not belong to their parents in an effort to show the true role of each soul in the great chain of being. Parents sometimes think of children as possessions to be guided through life, but here, Gibran suggests that children do not belong to anything but the future, as "their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow." The world they will inhabit will not be the world from which they emerge, and as the generations pass, the world is reshaped by those within it. As Life itself progresses, it longs only for itself, over and over, continuing the cycle of existence as each new child inherits and then passes on the world to another generation, which doesn't belong to them anymore than they belonged to their parents.

Creating a rap for this poem would be a great way to introduce younger children to the themes within it. Perhaps it could be contextualized as a popular, anti-authority or anti-parent/coming-of-age song like "Parents Just Don't Understand" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. That particular song resonates with youth, and Gibran's stance also suggests that oftentimes, parents just don't understand their relationship to children. Some of the lines could be preserved, as the concept of "love" is something that many young children understand, but a line such as "And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you"" could easily be adapted to a tone along the lines of "you're not the boss of me."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The final stanza reads:

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

 

Basically, this means that even though the person who casts the arrow wants it to go a certain place, he really cannot make it go unless he holds the bow stable so that the arrow will go the way he wants.  In other words, parents need to be good stable role models for their children if they want them to stick to the straight and narrow in life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

No person truly belongs to another. While children inherit the genes of their parents and are, in a sense, a reproduction of the parents, they are yet separate from the mother and the father in that there are parts that differ from each parent. After all, each person is unique, his/her fingerprints are only his/hers; his/her mind is solely owned; his/her mind is solely his/her own.  Moreover, each person is formed by the era in which birth occurs--"Life's longing" for the future.

Parents are the "bows" that send the "arrows" of their children into this future.  Each is beloved by God who is their creator.  Parents must respect this order of creation for it is done in Love.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial