Roots and Wings

Every era of parenting has its mantra. When my daughter was born you couldn’t turn a corner without banging into the Korean proverb, “The greatest gifts you can give a child are roots and wings.” In the myriad of advice barraging young parents, this is, I think, a pretty good little nugget. Advice I was anyway disposed to follow when my daughter was born.

But how was I going to do it, when I learned that my daughter’s wings were likely not to unfold completely? I could give this beautiful daughter of mine roots galore but how would it be possible to trust sufficiently to give this fresh spirited soul (with a life threatening medical condition and multiple special needs) …her chance to fly?

My parents’ generation had its own parenting mantra, the far more straightforward “They’ll be fine.” And honestly, there could be no finer parental mantra for growing a child’s wings. We children were out and about from sun up to sun down, coming home only to eat lunch and dinner, a small army of children playing games, building forts and creating stories. It wasn’t precisely The Lord of the Flies, but it was pretty tribal. There was also ample time and space to be alone and dream. The woods and surrounding land held a handful of my “secret ” places where I would go to read and daydream. Tradition and daily routine provided us with roots.

Somehow it all worked and really, worked very well.

But it wasn’t going to work this time, raising this daughter entrusted to us. I didn’t have a clue, I could only try to be brave on her behalf until she could be brave for herself. Another mantra, “The Dignity of Risk” became the ladder I clung to and climbed. It required making daily decisions trading off the likelihood of a real life bruise from a tumble against a bruised character from never venturing out, making schooling decisions that exposed her to the “real” world and some children who wouldn’t be nice.,letting her pursue goals that I didn’t think she had a prayer of achieving. None of this easy, and never did I feel certain any decision was unequivocally right. I made masses of mistakes.Honestly,all I could hope to try be was alert, to her and to the world around her and try to close my eyes to fear.

She is a grown woman now, living on a farm in an intentional community comprised of adults with and without special needs. She weaves beautiful textiles in the weavery and bakes fragrant bread in the bakery and has a rich and rewarding social life . She has the time she needs to be alone and dream too. After a week’s visit home with her dad and I she returned yesterdayย to her own life.

Some combination of life and fortune, both good and bad, has truly made her brave. She might in fact be the bravest woman I know. Her life teaches me to always remember to risk and to grow in my own life.

Next month she is traveling to live in a similar community in Ireland. My husband and I will not be accompanying her.This trip is a lifelong dream of hers and I am so thrilled for her.

Thrilled for her and trying to once again beat down my fear.

I don’t think I have to be scared though. She isn’t. ย My daughter’s wings are perfect. And my husband and I didn’t have to give them to her, she grew them herself.

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19 Responses to Roots and Wings

  1. StarStruk says:

    Oh, CC…she wouldn’t have grown such strong wings without your spirit, your example, your kindness. I had no idea about any of this and only love you more because…well, just because.

  2. Celia says:

    Loving tribute to a lovely woman!

  3. jackie says:

    Chris, I do believe you have written that “Lives” essay we talked about! You are an amazing writer and this is so beautiful.

  4. Jeanne Leonard says:

    Chris, How beautifully eloquent and touching. Thank you. Your own faith, strength and courage has given your daughter the example that she needed and is following.
    Love, Jeanne

  5. Kate says:

    Wow! Amazing. I’m tearing up….

  6. Suzanne says:

    I am so grateful that you have begun this new venture. What a stunning, succinct piece that contains so much. You and your daughter will continue to fly. You never cease to inspire me.

  7. Karen Dervin says:

    This is so wonderful, Chris. So proud of her, and of you!

  8. Kathleen Wackowski says:

    I’ve never met your daughter, Chris, but how could she be anything but tough, spirited, spunky and delightful when she had you as a role model. Ireland will welcome her with safe and loving arms, not to worry :~)

  9. Anne Bailey says:

    Thank you,Chris, for including me on your list to read this lovely tribute to your daughter. It encourages all of us who face such challenges to find the strength to persevere and not let our fears stand in the way of growth and opportunity. Life calls out to be lived. You have demonstrated that through your deep love and support of your daughter and then trusting life’s intentions, and letting go, all things are possible.
    With admiration and much gratitude,

  10. Indeed!!! Life calls out to be lived. Watching and listening to your son speak so eloquently to hundreds of people the other day, a moment with so much history, love, faith and work behind it ,was one of those moments when you think, yes,all things are in fact possible .So beautiful. We are a mutual admiration and gratitude society you and I Anne :).

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