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Kite Strings

Kite Strings

I have owned many kites over the years of my childhood. Some were never used. I looked forward to using them. I just never got around to it so they, literally, never got off the ground.

Others were often used. They were frequently flown. They crashed sometimes and were damaged, but I repaired them so they could soar again. Many of those were used so much they eventually fell apart. As a result, I know the art of how to fly a kite.

Flying a kite is an ultimate act of balance. It is the tension between gravity and lift. The weight of the kite causes it to want to stay right where it is, without moving. But it is designed to fly, so it needs help getting up there.

Lift is the upward motion that lifts (hence the name) the kite into the sky. Lift is often created as a product of wind pushing against the kite, but lift is also produced by yanking on the kite string to pull the kite against the still air.

There are some learned basics to flying a kite—things you learn because you have flown a kite before. Eventually you acquire a “feel” to flying it well. There is a sensing of change in the wind, resulting in an urge to pull on the string, or to loop the string a bit to steer it. But there is a “feel” for when one needs to pull the string or let it alone.

A seasoned kite pilot once told me, “You can always fly a kite. There is always a breeze, but sometimes you have to work hard to urge the kite up into the wind. It’s up there.” I have found this to be true.

Sometimes, on a breezy day, the kite would easily lift, and my only function was to hold onto the string, so it would not fly away. On other days there was considerable effort to pull the string and quickly run, pulling the kite behind me until my created lift caused the kite to climb until it found the upper breeze and started to soar.

The main key to the success of kite-flying is controlling the string. Without a string the kite is either at one extreme like a tumble weed, aimlessly controlled by the winds or it is the other extreme … motionless.

Kite flying is a wonderful analogy of fathering because part of successful fathering is the way we hold our child’s “kite string.” As a father, sometimes I need to keep them grounded, giving limitations to their flights.

Sometimes I have to be the source of direction and steering. Other times, I need to pull them up into the strength of the winds encouraging them upward.

At first, in our child’s youngest years, the father predominately holds the strings, hopefully showing and teaching how to control the kite—how to control life. Then as time passes there is a shared grip. A give and take.  Giving directions and advice.

Eventually the offspring takes the string altogether. A father shows the child how to pilot the kite and then gradually lets the child take the string. And eventually—just like that kite—the string of his/her life must be controlled solely by them.

My biggest job with the kite is to train my child how to operate the string—always keeping in mind the goal of turning the kite string over to him or her.

Truth is, whether they are ready or not, your children will take the string from you. But for a time, it is so much better if you fly the kite together through the years

So as the popular Disney film Mary Poppins urged us, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.”

By: Dave Trouten is the married father of two teenage boys and a Division Chair & Professor of Communication at Kingswood University.

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