On Children

Thanks to Rebecca Mullen of Altared Spaces for sending me the link to this wonderful video. The song is based on the poem “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran and was written by Sweet Honey in the Rock and performed in this video by Mebuyan.

On Children
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.



  1. Jess Witkins said,

    July 4, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Cool video, Margaret! I love the poem, it’s very beautiful. Reminds me of the posts you did on education. Thank you for sharing. I’m going to have to look up this author to see more.

    • July 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm

      I was introduced to the words of Kahlil Gibran by Ajai, a young Indian man I had met in a laundromat in Astoria in the ’80s. I’m pretty sure that this particular poem would not have meant as much to me then as it does today as a mother. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  2. July 4, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Lovely. “Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness…” Sometimes I just barely manage this, I think. But then there are whole days and seasons where I feel incredibly grateful that it’s not just me doing this huge job, and I’m filled with satisfaction.

    Good post.

    • July 4, 2011 at 3:27 pm

      I agree, Lisa. The tricky part is remembering it. The past few weeks I’ve been doing tons of inspirational reading and it has made a huge difference. The memory is improving. 😉

  3. Brenda said,

    July 4, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Margaret – my Dad gave me this poem when I was leaving for college and strangely enought I dug it out this past june and passed it on to my daughter. She leaves for college in August.. sniff sniff. It’s a keeper.

    • July 4, 2011 at 3:33 pm

      What a gift to have such an evolved dad. Some of my college friends were sent off to school under the heavy burden of having to major in what daddy majored in. What a spirit-killing send-off that was.

      Though my parents were not in the habit of giving us gifts of poetry, they definitely raised us in a way that shows they intuitively grasped the words of this poem, and for that I am extremely grateful.

  4. Richard said,

    July 4, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Love the poem a bit more than the song. Just don’t show my son or I’ll never hear the end of it. 😉

    • July 4, 2011 at 3:42 pm

      You think so? Nah. I’ve always admired the respect you have for your son’s uniqueness and that you don’t push your thoughts on him but rather listen to what he has to say. I also think “little wise one” knows what he has in his dad.

  5. mommarge said,

    July 4, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Beautiful and so true – I appreciate such writings much more as I get older.

    • July 4, 2011 at 5:29 pm

      I just found something very similar that I wrote in my journal when I was pregnant. Nice to check in every once in a while with the hopes in the journal and see how they compare to the realities of life.

  6. Girlboxing said,

    July 5, 2011 at 7:02 am

    Sweet Honey and the Rock were our favorite group to bring Izzi to! We saw them four years in a row for their MLK concerts! We particularly love the song, “No Mirrors in My Nana’s House.”

    • July 5, 2011 at 9:22 am

      Thanks for sharing that, GB. That could have been written about my Nana’s house. 😀

    • July 30, 2011 at 11:09 am

      I think you might have picked my FAVORITE Sweet Honey song…and I LOVE them. This song is so dear to me and it’s certainly the way I’ve tried to raise my own children. I’m glad to know you like it too!

  7. bronxboy55 said,

    July 5, 2011 at 8:57 am

    It’s a beautiful poem, Margaret. Thank you.

  8. Linda Lewis said,

    July 6, 2011 at 12:09 am

    The words of Kahlil Gibran have for many years touched my heart. The timing of these words could not be better. I am both a child and a mother and while I am losing one the other could not be more dear. Thank you, Margaret.

  9. purabinaha said,

    July 7, 2011 at 4:02 am

    Oh…you write beautiful poems. This poetry on children is really praiseworthy! Do visit my blog if you like Indian food!

  10. July 8, 2011 at 1:16 am

    lovely margaret. thank u. i’m proud to say kahil was lebanese :). i do wish his writing were around more. they r inspiring and share such presence. keep on.

    • July 10, 2011 at 12:54 pm

      These boundaries would be appreciated by the children but some hard to accept by parents. Some parents cannot mind their own business because they think they own the children’s business beyond into adulthood. I got a dose of it when my doctor told me to get out of the examination room as he saw my then 20 year old son. It was between him and the doc. Whew!

      • July 10, 2011 at 4:27 pm

        Ha, I can understand why you’d automatically walk into the exam room with him…you’d been doing it for almost 20 years. 🙂

  11. July 30, 2011 at 11:13 am

    I’m glad you printed the whole poem here. I do so love the bending of the bow and the arrow flying.

  12. July 20, 2012 at 11:47 am

    I am a mom who lost her daughter when she was nineteen.. I feel the need of letting go which the poem may also be referring to?
    Are there parents out there in my situation? Barbara E.Gartig.

    • July 20, 2012 at 6:38 pm

      Barbara, thank you for stopping by. I’m so sorry about your daughter. I agree with your interpretation of the poem. Though I hadn’t thought of it upon first reading the poem, the theme of letting go applies whether our children are living or deceased. I hope you find a balance of connection and letting go that works for you.

  13. gartigb said,

    August 6, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Margaret, I believe strongly in the philosophy behind the poem and was thinking about using it in my writing class for freshmen at Northern Kentucky University. I “parent” them so to speak. The first day they will know—via the poem—more about me and what the course is going to be like. Teenagers could write me back about how they think this idea might be received/perceived. I have twenty-two 18-year-olds that I have to sell the class to!

    • August 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm

      I’d love to hear how it turns out. I taught for a few years (grades 5-8) and spent much time preparing lessons that would be relevant to the students at their point in life. Those were rewarding years I won’t soon forget.

  14. Jessica said,

    April 22, 2013 at 11:49 pm


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