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 yesterday 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. My daughter’s wings are perfect. And my husband and I didn’t have to give them to her, she grew them herself.