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Roots and Wings

‘There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children.  One is roots.  The other, wings.’  When I researched to learn who wrote or said these inspiring words, I learned many people have used them:  Henry Ward Beecher, Jonas Salk, Ronald Reagan, and others. But I didn’t find out who first gave this sage advice.

            As 865 Putnam County high school students graduate this week, parents wonder if their children are ready.  Ready to move out of their homes.  Ready to take on the responsibilities of living with peers.  Ready for a full-time job.  Ready to study to attain the next degree.  Ready to measure up to the rigorous training in the armed forces.  Ready to manage their time, their money, eat healthy, even ready to wash their own clothes. 

            Yes, they are.  Because you gave them roots.  Roots that go all the way back to when your children were swaddled in small blankets and you attended to their every physical and emotional need.  When they fell on their bottoms as they stumbled to take steps and you clapped to encourage them to stand and try again.  When they started kindergarten and you threw an air kiss.

            Roots grew thicker and stronger when children learned to socialize with classmates and team mates.   Learned to adapt to teachers’ and coaches’ expectations that were different than at home.   Learned rules and consequences, and probably experienced consequences that taught life lessons.   Learned to compromise, to lead, and to follow.

            You parents encouraged wings to develop through root experiences.  When toddlers fell, they picked themselves up and wings fluttered.  When children felt unsure and scared, you encouraged.  When the world’s values didn’t match home values, you helped your children sort, discard, and keep what was necessary to be successful.

            And when children felt rejected or defeated, they knew a safe, secure place. At home, their wings could wave frantically and then rest to rejuvenate and grow.

            Roots and wings continue to develop even after most people think children are old enough to be on their own. When my children were young, Mom told me about giving roots and wings and years later she chuckled when Son showed both.  He was working his first full time job after college graduation and lived a four-hour drive from Husband’s and my home.  We planned to visit him for the weekend and Son asked, “Will you bring my camo coat? The one that’s hanging on the coat rack in the mudroom.” 

            Son’s wings had taken him to independent living.  His roots told him that home was the same. That his coat he’d hung on a coat rack when he was a high school student, years earlier, was still there.  The coat had been moved to a closet and we took it to him.

The greatest gifts parents give their children truly are roots and wings.  Gifts we continue to give, even after children wear caps and gowns and think they are all grown up.


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