Father’s Day

Today is the last installment of Yellow Stream for the book, Healthy Cells Grow All By Themselves. I think it is appropriate to end the paper version here for several reasons. First of all, I’m finally on my way to recovery from the last effects of the chemotherapy and the radiation. Secondly, the book is dedicated to my children and my spouse, and what better time to end than on Father’s Day? Thirdly, I want to share with you some of the secrets that I have learned in raising happy and independent children over the last twenty-eight years. While I still have young ones in the house (R. is fourteen and J. is twelve), my son is 28, and living a happy and independent life. And finally, I feel that my greatest accomplishment in life so far has been being a “dad” and raising such fine children. If other children were raised with the values and love that I have given to my children, things would be a lot better in the world.

So, what are my ideas about raising children? Well, one of the first things to think about is that

“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 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 my 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.”

This quote is from Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1951. You have all probably read it before, but lost sight of the “arrow.” I have always tried to keep in mind that my children have come through me, but not from me. I have also tried to remember that they have their own thoughts and dreams, which I cannot even imagine. I have always tried to give them the space to grow into special individuals, and, as you can see from R.’s speech the other day, it seems to be working.

I also value instilling upon my children the importance of developing a love for learning, and, as a result, have invested my hard-earned money on private education for all three of them. My son went to Mt. Tam Primary School, and the Branson School, each fine independent schools in their own right, before graduating from Stanford University. R. and J. have been in Marin Horizon school since they were about two years old! This school is based on Montessori methods, and fosters individuality, along with a respect for all life forms and other people’s property. I love the education my daughters have received, and I feel that they are prepared for any eventuality.

Another area of parental concern is that of control, partly for the safety of the child, and partly for setting limits. In this area, I have always remembered what Shunryu Suzuki Roshi had to say about control in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (Waterhill, New York, 1970, p 32):

“…Even though you try to put some people under some control, it is impossible. You cannot do it. The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in its wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people; first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good; that is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them.”

I was deeply affected by this passage back in the seventies when I first read it. I remembered it and applied it to controlling my children. This way, they had a “spacious meadow” in which to explore life and learn the boundaries that were set for them in a happy and contented way.

Among the other values I try to instill in my children is the ability to make decisions for themselves. To do this, I taught them a reliable subjective basis for making moral and ethical decisions based on clear comprehension of the alternatives. Included in this reliable subjective basis was a love and respect for all life forms and respect for other people’s property, as mentioned before. As an example, when my son was eleven or twelve, he excelled in two activities that both made us proud. He was an excellent gymnast and a talented member of the San Francisco Boys Chorus. The gym was in San Rafael, and the Boys Chorus was in San Francisco, both more that ten miles in opposite directions. We sat down with him when we realized that these activities were not only stressing us out, but causing him some concern. After weighing all sides of the issues, he decided to stay with the Boys Chorus. This was a momentous decision for him, as it led him into a direction of the performing arts. For example, at the Branson school, he played Biff in West Side Story, El Gayo in The Fantastics, and was on of the founding members of the Barber Shop Quartet. At Stanford University, while he minored in music, he was a member of the Stanford Fleet Street Singers, and director for two of his four years there. Since his graduation he has played major parts in Iolanthe, La Boheme, and Naughty Marietta. He plans to move to New York in August to try to make it into the big time, all the while maintaining his skill as a computer graphic designer. You can see some of his work by browsing to his web site, and remember the he is a cancer survivor!

Well, enough of my ideas for raising children for now! What about the events and feelings of the day?

We were invited to lunch at Mikayla’s by our friend J. and R., who own the place. J.’s sister was also there with her family. She and R. both studied with Anna Halprin, so we had many interesting conversations about various topics. Besides that, the food was magnificent and we had a difficult time leaving.

My son came back to the house and we spoke for hours. It was during this time that he revealed to me his plan to give New York a try. I was totally supportive, for I believe that he is still young enough to give it his all, and he always has the fall-back position of doing computer graphics. What impact this will have on his almost seven year relationship with his girl friend, I don’t know and won’t even try to predict.


Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Copyright © 2004-2018, Jerome Freedman, Ph. D.