By Bea Joyner
As we look into our children’s faces when they are born, we know that someday they will grow up and leave our home. Our job is to ensure their survival in this world. We do that by giving them their roots and their wings. The roots are principals like reliability, honesty and self-reliance; the wings are their ability to take care of themselves as they go out into the world. My problem was I wanted to determine when my children used their wings.
There were things I want my children to have as they prepared for life on their own. My mother made sure I was well prepared to face the world and it saved me many a heartache. I saw the price others paid when they had to depend on someone else to take care of them. I didn’t want that for my children. Our youth want to be independent, but they don’t always understand what that involves. I made sure my children knew how to wash, clean, iron, cook and do other necessities.
When you learn how to use your wings, it often means making mistakes. I didn’t want to protect my children from all mistakes because mistakes are a far better teacher of life than I am. And the reality is, everyone must make mistakes to grow. But we want to spare our children pain and misery. We tell them, “Baby, don’t touch that stove, it’s hot!” because we are trying to protect them. We can talk until we’re blue in the face, but until they touch it, they won’t understand.
Unfortunately, when our children are ready to use their wings, we are cringing for fear that they may hurt themselves. Many times, we are right, our children are too young, they can’t see the dangers lurking that we do. Yet they are also right, they are ready to do some things. I wanted to be sure my children had strong wings, but I also realized I was trying to control the timing of their flights.
When my children were ready to stretch forth their wings, I wanted to be the flight instructor and the tower. I knew their abilities, or so I thought, but there were times when I had to back up because in fact, they were ready. My son, Askari, has a sweet tooth, especially when it comes to my cookies, but I had no intention of making him cookies for the rest of his life. I’d have to double the recipe because I’d want a batch for myself, so he had to learn to make his own.
It’s a simple recipe and Askari wanted to try it on his own. Well, that’s when this flight instructor went into the hovering mode. “No, Askari, you have to put the flour in a separate bowl.” “No, Askari, you have to put the butter in first.” It became a steady stream of “No’s.” Finally, I said, “Let me do it, you’re just making a mess.” Well, he was making a mess! Askari said, “Mom, please leave, I can do this.” So, I had to make a choice: leave, or be prepared to make him cookies all his life. I left. I was uneasy, until I remembered that was how I really learned how to make cookies. Besides, one day when I’m too old to make them, I need to know he could make some for me just the way I like them!
The other thing a flight instructor must learn is that his children don’t have to use their wings the way he does, they just must use them. I tried to teach my daughter, Jamilah, how to cook rice and any cook will tell you, rice can be difficult. I showed her how to wash the rice, add the water, and the real secret, to be careful with the temperature and timing. I tried my best, but Jamilah couldn’t seem to do it the way I did. But guess what, she’s not supposed to; she just must do it. Besides, I didn’t have to eat her rice, at least not until she cooked it right. She was happy not to have to share the rice and she would eat it all. Well, there was a pot or two or three that was burned too badly even for her. Now she uses a rice cooker, so it comes out perfect every time!
Now I can proudly say I did my job as flight instructor, I made sure my children had roots and strong wings. Hey Askari, where’s my cookies?!