ROSE NOLEN: Your children are not your children

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:41 a.m. CST, Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I like old books.

I like the look of them, the feel of them and the way they smell. I like to see them standing up on my bookshelf as if they're waiting for me to have a look-see. Every now and then I poke my head around and stay to pay them a visit.


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For years, I used to hang around the corner of the bookshelf that housed "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran. When I was a young prospective parent I read the part of the poem that was about children most of the time. And I thought that by the time my son was born, I understood the information it contained.  

That's why I'm glad my son was not a member of Generation X. If he had been a part of that group I'm not sure I would have recognized him as a part of Gibran's vision. Whenever I see a young person recovering from a bad trip, I don’t think that's what the man meant when he wrote "these are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself."

I still can't believe that a lot of young parents today have not come to their senses. Year after year goes by and they are still not getting a better grip on the parenting thing. They are letting their kids fall by the wayside with hardly a look behind them.

We are a society where child abuse has become an everyday reality. Our institutions are filled to the brim with abandoned children waiting to be taken under somebody's wing. These are children no one is willing to take responsibility for and we keep bringing them into the world.

One thing is certain, the world is a hard place to live in. Undisciplined children can fall into bad trouble in a short time. People used to ask, in the old days, why black schools were such heavily disciplined places. Well, anyone who knew the terrible hardships black children had to suffer through in order to reach adulthood would have understood how important it was for them to be well-disciplined.

I don't know how it came about that people started believing that giving children more freedom was good for them. To allow a child to go out into the society undisciplined is criminal. Most people, even those who are not particularly fond of children, respect their rights and their needs. But even then they draw the line when they feel that they are expected to put up with the children who have behavioral problems.

"The Prophet" explains that your children are not your children. To me, this is the most important part of the poem because while this fact should be obvious I realize that there are many people who feel that their children belong to them. This means that they sincerely believe that they own these kids and should therefore have complete control over them. And for a lot of people this sums up the difficulties in the relationship they have with the young people.

And because this constitutes the basis of the problem, until these parents manage to develop a proper relationship, the conflicts tend to spin out of control. Parents are charged with the care and keeping of the children, ownership is not a part of the plan.

And the prophet reminds us that "you may house their bodies but not their souls." And that, of course, creates a dilemma for those who want to determine their child's destiny.

So, parenting children is a complete learning experience. You have to learn from those who can teach you. You have to learn from books, from other parents and teachers. The moment you bring the child into the world you have the responsibility to embark upon a journey to deliver him safely onto the shores of adulthood.

And lest you forget, your children are not your children.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or emailing her at

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Ellis Smith January 24, 2012 | 12:34 p.m.

It's doubtful that non-delusional parents would think they were or could be the only influence in their child's life, or would attempt to be. External influences are present even in the early life of a child, and really multiply once the child begins school.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 24, 2012 | 1:03 p.m.

Children go through all sorts of battles in their lives, but the war is won or lost by parents. Virtually all kids (5-18) stray from good parental teaching, but for most of us that teaching comes to the fore as we mature.

I may be missing Rose's point..."your children are not your children"...but I think that statement is incorrect. Yes, they are our children; it is mainly we parents who determine the basic values, the discipline, the self-esteem, the guidance and direction, etc. I think Rose's column confuses ownership (as in, I own a refrigerator) versus the ownership responsibility for that which our children become.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 24, 2012 | 10:16 p.m.

@ Michael Williams:

Michael, my memory continues to fail me. Who was it that posited, in a book, that it takes a village to raise a child? (Since that revelation hadn't previously been presented, I am wondering how you or I or any of us now senior citizens ever managed to reach adulthood.)

(Report Comment)
Eric Cox January 25, 2012 | 12:04 p.m.

The first five paragraphs are nonsensical. And is that a slight on an entire generation? Talk about seeing the world in Rose colored glasses.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 25, 2012 | 1:10 p.m.

Ellis says, "I am wondering how you or I or any of us now senior citizens ever managed to reach adulthood."

It was dicey a few times, but I managed to pull through.

So far.

My folks would not have agreed with the "It takes a village" mantra. Me neither. Does that mean there were no outside influences on me? No, it doesn't. But the whole concept of "It takes a village", and Rose's missive, are based upon a communal notion of child rearing that reduces the obligation of parents and enhances the obligation of society.

I neither support these "communal notions" nor the enhanced obligation of society over parents.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 25, 2012 | 2:45 p.m.

@ Michael Williams:

The person who wrote the book is unquestionably a parent (one child) but I'm not certain what her credentials are as an expert.

On the other hand, my late aunt was a considerable expert on all things concerning children and child rearing. Nothing about the subject was beyond her knowledge and expertise.

My late aunt never had children, nor did she ever have much contact with them. :)

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking January 25, 2012 | 4:05 p.m.

Ellis Smith wrote:

"I am wondering how you or I or any of us now senior citizens ever managed to reach adulthood"

We also played with metallic mercury, played in the mist of the mosquito spray truck (DDT), played with metal toys with sharp edges, played in houses under construction, and breathed Dad or Mom's secondhand smoke without complaint.

By all modern accounts that should have killed most of us.


(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 25, 2012 | 5:04 p.m.


Damn. I did ALL those. AND played in the crick.

I even climbed trees and my playground in elementary school was full of metallic equipment dreamed up by a sadist. I loved going round and round until I threw up, and it's a wonder my esophagus isn't fried. We played SCHOOL!....and actually went outside when there was heavy snow on the ground. The sewer outlet at school always froze over during winter and we had great fun sliding until someone (me) fell and conked their head.

I even hunted by myself.

With a loaded GUN!!!!!!!!!!!

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 25, 2012 | 7:13 p.m.

I once drank from Hinkson Creek, but I didn't swallow!

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