This week in my class, we started reading a novel that the author wrote in honor of his parents. In the foreword, he thanked them for giving him both roots and wings. I had my students write what they thought that statement meant and then to put themselves in the place of a parent, and name for me one non-material thing that would stand for roots and wings. Many would be shocked at what my group of 13- and 14-year-old students had to say. Most of them said that giving your children roots meant that they gave them boundaries, rules and expectations. They said that giving them wings meant giving them good advice and sharing experiences with them — giving them some freedom, but always being there if needed. The non-material things that they felt represented roots and wings across the board was one word — love. This kind of answer did not shock me, because it is part of the reason I love to teach. Children are often discounted and never asked what they see and think in this world. Most people would never expect a group of teenagers to think and say that rules and expectations gives them the feeling of roots. When asked to go deeper and explain what they meant, they said that knowing what people wanted from them helped them feel less stressed. It’s interesting that out of the mouths of babes, we get such good advice. How many times in our day-today dealings with individuals do we expect certain behaviors or results, but we never actually come out and clearly say what we want? We get angry when people do not act in the ways we want. But if we never clearly articulate those expectations, how can they? In work, life and the home, we need to communicate our needs and wishes clearly and respectfully to one another. Most people want to please those around them, but most of us also are wandering around trying to guess what that is. The answer I received for wings, on the other hand, opened my eyes a bit. I did not expect them to say that they wanted advice and shared experiences. I see many students who just want an adult to sit down and spend some time talking and listening to them. They are starving to be heard and to hear what they need. I think at times adults think it is easier to just let them be alone doing their own things, when they are craving that time together. I think we as adults have let this generation down. We blame social media, TV and all forms of technology, but what are we doing about it? When is it time for us to act like adults and put these things away to just spend time with our kids? Are we also guilty of using these various forms of entertainment to push away those most precious in our lives? I think what the kids were saying was “give me some space to try new things, but be there when I fall. Help me figure it out, and let me try again.” In a way I think we all crave wings. There are times that we, as adults, need to seek out the older generation to get a little bit of roots and wings ourselves. The way my students said that roots and wings were best shown was through love. Love is not buying things, which was not brought up a single time during our discussion. Love, to my students, seemed to be best summed up with time together. In our day-to-day interactions with our children, students, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, are we showing that love? Can we look around and find someone who might need a little bit of roots and wings? Can we spend some time outside of ourselves, and share a bit of our life with a child? To them it is what they crave, what they need and, out of their own mouths, the way they feel loved.
DONNA DAVIDSON is a local teacher, wife and mother who lives northeast of Paris. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.