life

Your children are not your children

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, 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.

-Khalil Gibran

This beautiful poem was written in 1923 got me thinking about child-rearing and ownership.

The Copyright Act of 1970 provided an initial term of ownership for 14 years – at the time 14 years was about the time it took to raise a child to adulthood. After 14 years (or 18, 22, 25 or even older as we’ve kind of extended legal infancy) parents really have to let go of their children, and acknowledge they don’t “own” them. In fact did they ever truly own them in the first place?

American culture has become so individualistic and children it seems are born with a "belong to" label, or if they are adopted their adoption decree seems to serve as a "proof of purchase" in a sense. When birthparents terminate their parental rights some view this as something to say that they are completely cut off, disconnected and no longer able to have a voice or say in the child's upbringing.

What would a society where we believed that we all belong to each other look like? Would this worldview help to eliminate racism, white privilege, hierarchy, social stratification and other creations that come with ownership and power?

My new sister; NaNa

Ang and NaNa
Ang and NaNa

I have five sisters and two brothers in my immediate family with whom I have shared everything, toys, clothes, germs, love and more. I guess you'd say we had the typical sibling relationships for a large family.

I have always known that I had a birth sister who is three years older than me. The adoption documents my parents were given at the time of my adoption stated that "Angela has a three year old sister named Carolyn Johnson..." Over the years I have read those words hundreds of times, curious about this girl who shared my genes. As the years passed, and things around me changed, friends came and went, sports seasons flew by, presidents served their terms, high school graduation, college graduation, jobs and marriage, those written words forever stayed the same,

"Angela has a three year old sister named Carolyn Johnson, who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee..."

"Angela has a three year old sister named Carolyn Johnson, who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee..."

"Angela has a three year old sister named Carolyn Johnson, who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee..."

I read these words over and over again, year after year, completely forgetting that she wouldn't be three years old anymore as each year passed, and as I changed each year, perhaps she did too. Perhaps she got married, and maybe her last name has changed...

Last July, I met my 6th sister, Carolyn, however she was not 3 years old, she was 29. And people weren't calling her "Carolyn," but instead, "Na-Na." Her last name was no longer Johnson, but rather, Young, and she has two beautiful daughters. The only remaining truth, was her residence in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that had not changed, but the words of how i knew my long lost sister had already been emblazoned in my head.

I wish I knew how she's spent her 29 years, I wish I knew how she got her nickname, I wish I was there the day her last name was changed. I wish I was there when she had her children, and became a mother. I missed out on 29 years, but am so thankful that I can now spend my Sunday evenings getting answers to those questions, during our weekly Skype date.

Though we do not share the same last name, and nor do we share the same worldview or culture, we do share the same genes and thus are bound by blood. Now that our worlds have collided we can begin to learn all about each other. I have learned how to pronounce "NaNa," (NAY-nay) and am beginning to feel more comfortable using her nickname (even though her proper name, Carolyn, seems more natural for me). I understand that our upbringing has been completely different, and that the cultural norms vary greatly for both of us. The meeting and befriending of my birth sisters has been a jumble of emotions, ranging from fear of the unknown (what will she look like? What will she sound like?) to excitement (can't believe that's her!). I've felt the emotional pangs of worry (will she want to get to know me?), and embarrassment (her southern accent is so thick! What is she saying? What does that word mean?) however I have no qualms about my emotions, as there is no script written for how these relationships succeed, so I'll presume our relationship is just where it should be, jumble of emotions and all.

Of the nearly 7 billion people who walk this Earth, there is only one whom I enjoy devoting my Sunday evenings to; my new sister, Na-Na (& her daughters).

Family
Family