Children are like kites. You spend years trying to get them off the ground. You run with them until you are both breathless. They crash … they hit the roof …
you patch, comfort and assure them that someday they will fly.
Finally, they are airborne. They need more string, and you keep letting it out. They tug, and with each twist of the twine, there is sadness that goes with joy.
The kite becomes more distant,
and you know it won’t be long
before that beautiful creature will snap
the lifeline that binds you together
and will soar as meant to soar
… free and alone.
Only then do you know that you have done your job.
~~ Author Unknown ~~
Tuesday morning, very (very) early, we sent our son and his wife flying off to Thailand for a long visit with my daughter in law’s family. As we said our goodbyes, it struck me how familiar this process has become.
“I never would have imagined it,” I said to Jim as we drove away, the sun rising at our backs, “never would I have believed we’d have done this so much.”
Yes indeed, my son is quite a traveler. He moved far away from home right out of high school, and never came back. He’s traveled countless times between Florida and Michigan, also to California, Hawaii, Australia, and now to Thailand for the fifth (I think -see, I’m losing track) time. His frequent flier miles far outweigh mine, and he’s just 28 years old.
So we’re quite familiar with saying goodbye at airport curbs.
That doesn’t mean I’m completely comfortable with it. After all, I wasn’t raised to be a traveler – far from it. Many of the people in my family harbor a pathological fear of leaving home. My grandmother, her sister, and my own mother, have some deeply laden fear that if they go away from home, something awful will happen. Granted, the only one of my grandmother’s sisters to leave the family home did contract tuberculosis, which was ultimately responsible for her death, as well as the death of another sister and their father. So perhaps there were grounds for their fears after all. And as far as I was concerned – well, let’s just say the kite strings were always kept pretty tightly wound.
My friend Pat gave me a copy of the “Children Are Like Kites” poem, just before Brian went to Florida for college.
“You need this now,” she told me. “You need to know that as hard as this is, you’re doing your job.”
I really believe that’s true. I believe the hardest thing about being a parent, is also the most important thing. Giving children freedom to “soar as they are meant to soar-free and alone.” Certainly not abandoning them, just allowing the bond enough elasticity so they can stretch and reach the places they were meant to reach, but can quickly snap back if they need to.
Really, all Brian’s traveling is about more than going places. It’s about having the courage (his courage and my courage) to move out into the world, try new things, open yourself to new people and experiences. Trusting yourself, having confidence in yourself.
Driving home from work today I passed a community college which, for some reason, is a favorite kite flying spot. There was a gorgeous rainbow colored kite plastered against the blue sky, it’s multi-colored tails flapping in the spring breeze. They’re meant to fly, aren’t they? For they’re certainly more beautiful aloft than bound to earth.
I enjoy watching my son soaring through life – it’s what he was meant to do. It’s still hard saying goodbye at airports, unspooling that string a little more, but it’s worth it.
It’s all part of my job.