The Bow and the Arrow

The poem “On Children,” by Kahlil Gibran, addresses one the most common issues that most families struggle with: difference between generations. Although the children receive their genes from parents, Kahlil Gibran believes that parents shouldn’t assume that their children belong to them. He says parents can give their love to their children but they cannot expect their children, who are going to live in the future, to have the same thoughts and beliefs as them, to obey them, and live like them.

This exact issue is the cause of many conflicts among the parents and teenage or youth in many families, especially in our era. For instance, in many developing countries, children want to have fashionable hairstyle like their favorite actor or singer, while their parents hate those hairstyles and it seems very strange to them if their children wear torn trousers similar to David Bekham’s. When the children talk about their foreign friends in Facebook and the funny links they share, parents reminisce their memories of youth and their friends by looking at old photo albums.  Parents wait half of their life to see their sons and daughters wearing black suits as grooms or white gowns as brides, but their children simply refuse to marry because they are not sure they can live forever with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Mothers expect their daughters to become a good housewife and serve their in-laws in a very proper way as she had done in the past. However, she blames her daughter who wants to divorce her husband because she thinks they no longer understand each other. The Father feels he has wasted his life over his newly married son who wants to live independently in a separate house or apartment. The father had made his own father happy the day he brought his wife to the house. As the parents spend whole their life bringing up and supporting the children, they come to believe that their children completely belong to them. Therefore, they feel strong authority over their children.

Kahlil Gibran, however, says parents should accept the fact that their children have a different world, for they live in the future. He depicts parents as an arrow through witch children are sent forth toward their future. I think if parents stop blaming their children for their different lifestyle or ideology and try to be close friends to their children instead of acting like owners, they will come to know their children’s world better. It doesn’t matter if they walk through different paths as long as they love each other and care for each other.

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Whose Children?

Reading the poem, “On Children” by Khalil Gibran led me to the state of dilemma. His ideas are somewhere acceptable and somewhere very hard to assimilate with. He says parents are just a means to bring a new life to the world but they aren’t the one who bring life from within themselves. Furthermore, he argues that parents can give love but not thoughts to their children. From individual point of view, that’s true because every individual has own thoughts. However, speaking scientifically, parents live inside their children. Their genes pass their characteristics, appearances and many more traits to their children. Thoughts of children are often guided and influenced by their parents.

The most concerning thing for me is that Gibran averts parents from condemning their children as their children. He states that “They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself”. Then what about the pain and suffering a mother bears conceiving her baby and holding the one on her womb for nine months? We know a baby grows from the fetus that is formed through ovulation cycle. So, can’t a mother claim her baby as her baby? Moreover, he comes forward with his argument that parents just house the bodies of their children but not the souls. Here, he tries to remain indifference to the soul inside the baby letting it remain as a mystery. On some point, we all agree the issue of soul as a mystery.  Even though can we neglect the process inside the womb a baby undergoes to take a human shape and human life?

I agree with Gibran that parents try to fiddle with the changing time but don’t try to make their children like themselves. It’s so because time never goes backward. In the later part of the poem, Gibran uses simile of bows and arrows to depict the relationship between parents and children. He equates parents to bows and children to arrows. This seems to appear quite pleasing. At the same time, he uses this simile to escape away from the criticism of undermining parents’ credit for procreating children in the first part of the poem. He brings the concept of God and tries to protect himself saying that God loves both his bows and arrows equally.

With all these agreements and disagreements, I still linger with some questions. Are parents simply a machine to produce children? Can’t they claim their children as their children? What do you think?

Response to “On Children”

Kahlil Gibran in his poem “On Children” made an effort to make all the parents clear about their bonding with their own children. When I read this poem, I thought “Exactly this is the main problem we need to talk about, with our parents.” The way Gibran had put light in the fact that, though children are brought into this world through the parents, their lives do not totally belong to parents is really fascinating. I guess arguments regarding ethics and principles pop out in every home of the world. Most of the parents want their kids to be like them, to live and follow the same principles that they have been following throughout their lives. As a consequence of which, there is a conflict between thoughts of parents and their offspring. Parents keep on assuming that since they have given birth to their children, they have right to interfere in their kids’ lives and kids should live as the parents want them to live. On the other hand, children want freedom from so-called principles and interference of their parents. I don’t want to infer that parents are always hindrances through my writing, but what I think is that though children are brought up into this world by the parents, parents should also consider that their broods have their own way of living, their own thoughts and principles. It’s not that children don’t need parents but they want them to be their guides to show the pathway to walk on rather them being path themselves and compelling the kids to walk on.
Speaking about me and my brother, sometimes we feel really depressed when our parents compel us to do the things which we don’t want to. We face such problem while following rites and rituals, regarding dress up, and language used while talking to our friends. They often say us to visit temple and to be religious. Rather we think that having faith on god from the heart is important than visiting temple. And we have our own style and way of living. I think if parents start to understand that parents are the part of our world, not our entire world and vice versa then there won’t be disputes any more. I feel blessed to have my parents and I do respect them, but I also want to be understood and I want my feelings to be respected by them as well, which all the children expect from their parents.

On Children

I appreciate Khalil Gibran’s point of view about the rights and duties of parents in the poem, “On Children”. His poem contains both exclusive and inclusive explanations on what parents are expected to do or not to do.

 He restrains parents from treating their children as if they are a part of their properties. For example, he believes despite that parents give life to their children; they can’t claim owning them by trying to compel their ideas and thoughts to them. They can’t want their children to live the way they have lived, because children are the living creatures who have their own thoughts, ideas and attitudes. Parents can give their children their love and care; however, they can’t take their children’s soul for being their parents.

On the other hand, Gibran alludes to a delicate subject which is what parents are considered to do. He drops a hint that though parents should not try to dominate their children’s heart and mind, they are responsible for their future. He has used a good metaphor by calling the parents, bows — the bows that despite their intimacy with the arrows cannot hold them with themselves and should send the arrows as far as they can. They work with each other but they are not supposed to be with or for each other forever.

  Furthermore, these bows are owned and empowered by an archer. Considering Gibran’s religious point of view (as someone who has studied religion and ethic), this archer can be: God. Gibran believes that all parents are in the hands of the God who has aimed the infinite direction for the all of us. He wants each arrow to go beyond the limitation of place – the infinite; thus, he bends the bows using his great power to propel us to our destination. He likes to see us moving to the right direction and reaching there. And he likes our parents bearing the difficulties to help us initiate this journey.

Khalil Gibran has written this poem to remind all of us, the today’s children and tomorrow’s parents, the great and delicate responsibility of parents. They can lead their children, the arrows of the archer, to their eternal life if they manage to do their job successfully, without mixing what they are should do and what they should not. The more parents endeavor for their child, the more God likes them.

Zahra Saifey

To whom a child Belongs?

The poem “On Children” was written by Kahlil Gibran, who was a Lebanese American poet. The poem mainly discusses about the relation between parents and their children. Though we are born as parents and children, we really don’t belong to each other. Rather we belong to the heavenly god. After reading the poem, I felt that I am a god’s child, but not my mothers. On the other hand, it is hard for me to accept his point that I really belong to the god. My parents have sacrificed their own happiness to fulfill my desires. They took care of me and supported me. I need my parents for my survival. They are always there to lean upon in times of happiness as well as sorrow. Their presence makes me feel lively and cheerful. Kahlil says, “Your children are not your children. They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.” Although parents are responsible for giving birth and nurturing their children, they cannot control the life of their children. A parent’s child is a gift from god. In addition, a child might have their own decisions and thoughts which are different from what their parents think. They are capable of thinking for themselves. However, I disagree with him on this context. In my country, I have witnessed many teenagers undergo drug abuse due to lack of parental guidance. They may involve in gang fights and turn out to be a villain. Therefore, I must say that a parent’s supervision is necessary for a child’s success. Kahlil says, “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.” He describes God as the archer, parents as the bows, and children as the arrows. Our parents are the bows from which their children, the arrows, are being shot. The god, the archer, helps the bows to shoot the arrows with all his might. I agree with him because god determines our destination.

On the other hand, some stern parents want their children an ideal, thereby putting the child into much depression. Do not ask your kids to live up to your expectations.  Guide them, and your expectations will be fulfilled as you expect them to be.