Credit: Peter Lindberg on Flickr via Creative Commons

Credit: Peter Lindberg on Flickr via Creative Commons

Speak gently to them, because your words and voice are the roots of the trees of thought they will struggle to climb, cut down, or bloom through.

Don’t allow your fear for their future drive you to sow fear into their hearts. Let them believe that the world is big, and beautiful, and mysterious, and full of wonders theirs to explore.

Read to them. All the time. Teach them to climb into stories, to rescue and discover and learn and grow. Introduce them to all the worlds of Narnia and Rohan, to the kings and warrior queens and elves and dwarves and dragons. Help them learn that someone who is foreign to them can still be called a friend.

Color with them, giving them space to rake the pencil out of lines, even off the page. Dedicate a wall for their finger paints.

Let them cook with you. Allow the broken egg shells and messes to become part of the process, not a burden added to it. Burn something with them. Eat a lumpy pancake, and giggle with them while you’re at it.

Discipline them. Teach them consequence, reward and punishment. Make the stone edges of the fire pit as distinctive as you can, so that when they venture inside and are burned they can remember that you knew the boundary lines so they might be able to trust you to heal their wound.

Play music. Dance. Share secrets. Invite them into all the things you love. Be alive with them. Not just at two years old, or six, or even ten. Meet with them, in their worlds, as they make room for you.There is nothing in the universe more beautiful than the young adult, aglow with all the protection and confidence and wisdom and truth bestowed on them, walking the earth cloaked in the peace of knowing they are loved, they are good, they are worth something.

Parents, you have no idea how much your kindness, your grace, your gentleness, your passions, your awakeness will infuse them with their own life and breath and dreams and imagination. Those of us on the outskirts, with no children of our own, commit to being a secondary safe place for them as youth pastors and mentors and surrogate uncles and Lorelais. But you…be the one they call home.

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 are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth….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.

~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet



  1. Adiel said,

    December 30, 2013 at 9:36 am

    I don’t know how I missed this post back in November, but I’m so glad I stumbled onto it today. You brought tears to my eyes with the picture you painted. Yes, this. This is the kind of parent Joshua and I strive to be. We want our kids to know they are safe to explore because we are always home for them. We want them to risk and make wild attempts because we are always there to catch them. We want them to fly farther and more beautifully than we ever could, because we are the ones they jump off of.

    Thank you, thank you for writing this.

    • MandyK said,

      December 30, 2013 at 10:29 am

      Everything you post about parenting inspires me to believe that what I wrote is actually possible. So thank YOU for pouring your life into those little ones!

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