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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.