Below is one of my favourite quotes. My mother sent this to me years ago and I know she learned very early and maybe harshly that her children didn’t belong to her. I chose to live with my Dad when I was five years old.

“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.”

—Kahlil Gibran

I read this today as a child and as a hopefully-one-day-parent. I read this now, with tears streaming down my face. I don’t know exactly why. They’re delicate I guess – these relationships between parents and children.

The sadness I feel catches me off guard. I’m 35 years old, the years of being in direct relationship with my parents are long gone but the wounds are deep.

It comes when I least expect it. I’ve been sitting in a café for a couple of hours doing some work and now suddenly I’m fighting back tears that have been triggered by reading this beautiful quote.

It happened once last year where I was caught off guard by similar emotions. It was after a massage with a big loving Thai Mama in a beach shack on Koh Phangan Island.

She joyfully sang the whole way through the massage and gave me a chat, a hug and cup of tea afterwards. Minutes later, I found myself sitting on the beach weeping.

For the first time in my life I came to the realisation that I actually really missed having a loving mother in my life.

For anyone who has had any trouble in his or her childhood or in their life in general, this happens. Trauma is stored in our body, in our systems, and it will resurface, and it’s OK.

It’s OK!

I’ve always been an advocate for crying, I’m certain that it is better out that in. I read Women Who Run With the Wolves when I was 20 years old and I still remember writing this quote in my notebook:

“Tears are a river that take you somewhere…Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it downriver to someplace better.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I know the best thing to do is to honour this sadness, let it be and then let myself drift somewhere new.

If I try to stop it, deny it or fight it then it makes it worse and draws it out for longer.  (This can be a little more challenging – and perhaps embarrassing – when it happens in a yoga class, on a plane or in a cafe like right now!)

Regardless, my answer is simple; let it flow.

A friend of mine has his mother staying at the moment.  They’re not close, he was raised by other family members and spent time in foster homes. Their situation reminds me a little of mine with my mother. There’s a distance between them. It’s only subtle but I can sense it. He’s slightly stand-offish and defensive. She’s trying very hard and is a little anxious.

I look on with love and acceptance for both of them. Sometimes it helps understand my own situation more when I observe others’. It’s also easier to respect each person and their individual journeys when I have no personal or emotional attachment.

I think this is one of the ways that life keeps teaching me more levels of my lessons. It’s showing me fresh new ways to look at things.

Of course, it’s no coincidence that I also received a message from my mother today even though our communication is infrequent.

There’s something here to be looked at, released, healed if I am willing. Which I am, so I honour my sadness now, I sit here with my tears and give them time to talk to me.

Firstly, I discover, I feel a great sense of relief.

As I observe others and their similar situations and think loving accepting thoughts about them, I realise that this then comes back to me. I’m recognising, respecting and accepting myself for dealing with my situation the best I can.

I’ve still been holding on to guilt, anger and judgement. Like I mentioned at the start, these wounds and their defence and protection patterns run deep. To my mother (and others), I’m still stand-offish, I am quite closed, I have attitude, come from self-protection-mode rather than loving-mode. I’m still not perfect.

I’ve been beating myself up about this, wanting to do and be better. Wishing I had all the answers. Wishing I was more.

I realise now that these are in fact tears of forgiveness. What’s revealed now is a new layer of love and acceptance for myself.

And with this, also comes another layer of love and acceptance for my mother and for my father.

None of us are perfect and it’s ok.

We’ve all just been doing the best we can at any given time and we’re continuing to do the best we can.

What does this mean for you?

Have you read this article and this quote as a child, a parent or both? Are you holding on to any grief, guilt, anxiety or trauma?

If so, please honour it now and then let it go.

We are all children and parents of the universe and we could all do with a little more love, acceptance and forgiveness. My wish for you and me right now is that we can go forward with a little more of this good stuff (love, acceptance and forgiveness) than we had yesterday!

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  • This is such a moving article. I wish I’d had a loving relationship with my Mum. Unfortunately she had depression and when she was young she was given shock treatment for a month and it damaged her brain. She turned from a loving mother to someone who wanted everything done for her and given to her. She made my life a misery because I was never good enough but I was the one who had to do everything for her. She was very demanding and I learnt to loathe having to visit. I’m glad to say that I was able to see her one last time when she told me she loved me and was very proud of me. I had to go back home but promised to come back in a week but she passed away that same night. I never hated my mother, I just hated how she’d become.


  • Thank you for sharing….I need it


  • This so beautiful and heart touching.I love every single word on that poem.


  • Children are a gift and it’s our job to prepare them for life.


  • A very real and deep post that reminds us that we are all trying just to do our best with our children, our parents, our neighbours, friends and partners. The quotes are wonderful and the river of tears is very meaningful. Thank you for your thought provoking post.


  • This is beautiful. I’ve always understand rationally that we raise children to be independent of us and for our role to become redundant. The emotional side though, now that’s a little trickier to work through.


  • I read this as a parent. My eldest got her driving licence today and I an really feeling the sense of separation. So today this resonated with me a lot.


  • Wow that’s a really deep perspective, thank you for sharing.


  • All too often children are stuck in the middle of marriage/relationship problems. I detest it when parents bad mouth each other to the children OR where one neglelcts the child leaving the other one to pick up the pieces.
    Another thing that annoys me is Govt. authorities undermining responsible parenting. Parents try to teach children right from wrong, then children are taught the first month of their first term at school in Reception that they have rights and don’t have to do what their parents ask them too if they don’t want to. They can’t physically stop them from walking out of home (that is physical abuse no matter how gentle you are), if you have to raise your voice to make them listen to commonsense it is verbal abuse (you don’t even have to use bad langauge). People ask where are the parents are when the kids commit crimes. What rights do parents have?? Sometimes Govt. authorities stick their noses in but have no practical advice to help parents of disabled children with behavioural problems. They make suggestions of things that have already been tried unsuccessfully, yet have no others, have no personal experience – know only what is in text books. NO, Govt Depts sometimes treat parents as though their children are not those, but they won’t accept responsibility either. In the case I know of the parents had attended special courses related to the problem their child has, the child is having counselling etc. No Govt. support at all, only criticsm.


  • A difficult article to read. I am very lucky to have an incredibly close relationship with my family but I can see that this is not the case with others.


  • One of those hard to read articles, but because it’s fitting unfortunately. Thanks for sharing.


  • It is good to cry, releases stress & it can be because of pure joy that our tears fall. I often cry because my son chose to live with his dad 8 weeks before my husband and I got married… my relationship with my son is improving but it makes me sad (he is also heavily manipulated and influenced by his father).


  • I so glad I had a good relationship with both my parents and I work hard at being a good mother to my sons but we should take nothing for granted but strive to always be better and a good cry does you the world of good sometimes.


  • I have turned a different way to my mum and have been and still are there for my children, but sometimes life can change the path you were on and children through their own choices end up on the wrong path and turn their backs on you. Never give up on your children even if they say they hate always say you will always love them.


  • i like your analogy of tears and rivers.


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