Beau April 10th, 2008
Did you ever fly kites when you were young? Yesterday I remembered how much I enjoyed them. With the winds of spring and warmer weather, flying a kite is a natural thing to do. And I learned that with kite flying, as with life, there are always lessons to be learned.
The kids at school had a kite flying day last week, and our son had a small kite from the store. He came home one day and we took it out to fly. It was great fun for about 10 minutes, at which time he let me have a turn. And then I proceeded to let the handle slip out of my grasp! It was a little kite with not too much string and began floating away. I couldn’t believe it- every time a kite would get away from me as a kid it just drifted softly to the ground. But not this one… it flew away, with me chasing in full run, the handle dancing just out of my reach.
At one point I almost had it and the big, goofy yellow lab runs right in front of me chasing something… he doesn’t know what it is, just that he wants to get whatever I’m chasing. I trip flat over his back, rolling to the ground in knee high grass, watching the kite handle float ever higher, up, up and away. That darn little kite flew skyward over the treetops a quarter mile away, and almost was free! But the handle and string finally caught on a top branch of a towering oak tree.
He wasn’t very happy, but I had to laugh. There it was, far away on the neighbors property stuck at the top of a giant oak tree, still flying in the wind. We walked slowly back to the house. Later it was gone, we didn’t know where. After leaving a message for the neighbors in case they wondered where their new sky ornament came from, we resolved to make another trip to the store for a new kite.
Looking over the fancy kites at the store a few days later, I mentioned that we could try and build our own. Hard to compete with the fancy stuff at the store, but I offered to replace the kite I lost, or that we could build our own kite and I would give him a dollar bill. The same value of the cost of a new one. Being a smart young man he went for the cash and the idea of building our own kite, looking at me doubtfully however.
So I resolved to build a darn kite or else, right then and there. After he came home from school yesterday, we went to work. I found some Pampas Grass sticks hardened enough from last years growth that he had saved (he loves sticks of every sort). I drilled tiny holes in the middle and the ends after finding pieces I could cut so that the joints of the growth were close to the ends for strength. Then I used small loops of wire at the ends as an attachment point for string. Next we tied string from top to bottom, and side to side. The Pampas Grass was just flexible enough to bend without crimping over, at least the second or third time I tried. So with a slight bow lengthwise and across, we then tied string all the way around the outside to complete the frame.
And then it was newspaper time! He liked the idea of using the funny papers from the comics section, so we cut and fit several pieces, glueing them over the string and reinforcing the corners. A little more string in the front to make a center loop and almost done!
We made the tail out of old t-shirt pieces tied together in a narrow strip. Voila!About an hour’s work and we were off to try it out. Perhaps damping his expectations, I explained that a newspaper kite might not hold up very well, so if not we’ll just laugh about it, try again and build a new one.
Up near the pasture the wind came up just enough and the kite was flying! Or not. It made loops to the ground and I knew we needed more tail. Having nothing more with us, I looked around for a handy stabilizer and grabbed a fistful of Little Bluestem and pasture grass… why not? And that did the trick- the kite flew beautifully!
The smile on his face was worth a million dollars. “Wow! I didn’t really know it would fly!” he says (neither did I!). We had fun with the dogs running all around and the kite dancing in the sky.
Then after some time of walking around with the kite chasing the wind, it began settling over the trees… “Back up!” I tell him and then “Ahhh!” he yells. He didn’t know how to keep it out of the trees in time. It was promptly stuck in the top of a scrubby tree above some briars.
“Daddy, get it!” he yells, not wanting to lose his kite. Thinking our creation surely was torn, I didn’t relish the idea of climbing through a patch of briars and up a tree. I told him it might be stuck for good, and we probably couldn’t get it down anyway without tearing it. Not a very good choice of words.
And that just made it worse, he was near tears at our predicament. Time to shift perspective… I told him, “Hey- we agreed we would have fun and laugh even if the kite got all smashed up, right?” But he said “No! I want THIS kite!” Being the usually dense father that I am, it took a while before I realized that we (I) lost his other kite last week, and now I was telling him this one was gone too. Maybe he could handle losing one kite, but another one that we just built together? No way.
He then marched by himself into the woods and briars yelling “Ow!”, determined to get it back. “Whoa!” I thought, “he really means it!” And I knew it was time to help him make a rescue attempt. So I marched over too and climbed up a little tree through the briars. After many broken branches and sticker-bush scratches, I reached the kite, only slightly torn, and biting the string with my teeth I finally worked it loose. He was down at the bottom, and I pushed it down to him where he helped pull it gingerly through the tangle where he was standing- success! We exited the thorn bushes with our proud scratches, and he said, “See! I knew we could get it!” And we flew the kite some more.
Later that evening we talked about a lot of lessons that we learned, most of which involved teamwork, and that you can do just about anything if you really put your mind to it.
With his 7-year old wisdom, he told me that I learned a lesson too, and it was about not giving up when the kite was stuck. I was proud to say yes, it’s good that we can all learn lessons in life no matter how old we are.
He doesn’t know it yet, but that wasn’t really the lesson I learned today. I learned that our son found courage and determination in not giving up. In deciding to go after what he wanted, and without knowing if he could do it himself, he was going to try anyway.
I know there are many more lessons to learn, for both of us, and that’s okay. I was also reminded that just about every moment we live as parents is a teaching moment, whether we know it or not.