Roots & Wings ... Roots

A wise woman once said to me: “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children.  One of these is roots; the other, wings.”  -- Hodding Carter, Where Main Street Meet the River, 1953 (Rinehart)


As I pondered the topic of the first official KIDapp blog, the above quote kept popping into my head.  I had heard the quote before, but never had known the origin.  While I credit and with giving me the most in-depth answers to my query, numerous references can be found with a simple computer search.  How very fitting, for the statement is quite profound when we talk about children.

Whenever I have the privilege of working with parents, I like to lay the foundation for all interactions by saying that the job of any parent, from the moment a child is born, is to help that child to leave the parent.  The same is true of professionals who work with children, from the moment that child comes into their life.  Yes, I have heard numerous gasps from the group when I first make my statement, but as we continue I believe the parents and professionals that I have met begin to understand.  I am talking about the delicate balance between “roots and wings”.  A child is a child for so few years, an adult for so many more, and we must continually find ways to nurture each child so they grow to be the best person which they are meant to be.

Let’s start by looking at “roots”.  What is a root?  Oxford Dictionaries defines root as: “the part of a plant that attaches it to the ground or to a support, typically underground, conveying water and nourishment to the rest of the plant via numerous branches and fibers.”  The visual image that definition conveys helps us to understand the importance of roots as a life-sustaining force.  The same is true of children.  Like a plant, children need to be attached, to draw support and nourishment from many sources, some obvious, some underground.  The roots that a child needs for support come from parents and family, and later from caregivers and educators.  Children need to feel a part of something bigger.   They need to feel connected.  One simple way that parents can give their children roots is through family stories and traditions, and what better time than the holiday season to nurture these connections.

Holidays are steeped in tradition, whether stories and ornaments and cooking family recipes together, or in frantic shopping and spending.  Which choice you make for your child will determine the memories your child will take into adulthood, and will likely share with your grandchildren.  Passing down memories and time together as a family connects a child through the generations, creates roots that run deep and provide nourishment when times get tough.  Ask your child what gift they got for Christmas three years ago and chances are they may not remember.  Ask your child to tell you about the time you dressed in antlers and danced around the Christmas tree and chances are you will relive the joy.  Better yet, ask Grandma about her favorite holiday memory and watch your children listen entranced by history – their history, their roots.  What memories do you have from childhood?  How can you share your history with your children?  How can parents combine memories from both their childhoods to nurture all the roots of their children?  For professionals who work with children, how can you incorporate sharing of family traditions in your rooms, helping to nurture these roots to grow stronger?

Please check back next month when we will continue this discussion by talking about how we give our children “wings”.  In the meantime, make some memories, make some roots.  Happy holidays to all from KIDapp!