First Kite

When my children were younger I wrote a weekly column, “Modern Parenting” for The Pembroke Observer newspaper. Being a stay-at-home dad was rare in our small town in 1991; people wanted to hear about my adventures. When I started this blog I promised to republish some of those old pieces, then I got sidetracked. 

 Over the next little while I want to revisit some of the articles that have stood the test of time. Or at least I think they have. They’ll be a change of pace anyway. I don’t intend to do much in the way of editing, but may make the odd comment in italics. This post was first published July 12, 1992.

Charlie Brown, that loveable round-headed comic book character and I have one thing in common. Both of us are failures when it comes to flying kites.

I’ve never been plagued by the infamous kite-eating tree that chews up Charlie Brown’s offerings, but then I rarely get my kites off the ground.

I do have fond memories though of making kites with string, old newspapers and sticks. They always looked good, but rarely flew. (They probably only looked good to my childlike mind.)

Nowadays things are a lot easier. Modern plastic kites come in all shapes and sizes. They look like anyone should be able to get them in the air. So I bought one for Paul. It was on sale for a dollar, and I thought it would be kind of fun if I taught him how to fly a kite. After all, as the old saying goes, those who can’t do, teach.

He was eager, an a little bit disappointed that I insisted we had to wait until the snow melted before we tried flying the thing. Almost every day for several weeks he asked if it was windy enough to try out the kite.

So one fine morning it did look windy enough. The flag on the Post Office was whipping smartly in the wind, and we had nothing already planned.

So off we went, as I explained that you just can’t fly a kite anywhere. You have to have a place with no trees or overhead electrical wires, some place like a baseball diamond.

Putting the kite together was a cinch. What would have taken me a long time on the old days was a snap, literally, as I fitted the plastic pieces together. Unwinding some twine, I hurled the kite aloft, confident the breeze would pick it up and take it to new heights. Paul was impressed, even as, scant seconds later, the kite crashed to the ground.

We tried for half an hour before giving up. It wasn’t the kite’s fault the wind kept changing direction. I’d get the thing about 20 feet up then the air would be dead calm as the kite would nose dive into the turf.

It was frustrating, but not for Paul. He didn’t care that it wouldn’t stay in the air. He would run with it, and if it stayed up for 330 seconds that was great Wilbur and Orville Wright couldn’t have been more pleased that day at Kitty Hawk – and their flying machine was up barely longer than ours.

As my blood pressure mounted and frustration grew, I had to step back emotionally and look at the situation. I had thought we were out to fly a kite, but that is not what Paul had in mind. He was out to have fun. Yes, he was going to try and fly a kite, but his fun was in the trying, not in whether we actually got the thing to stay up in the air. I was putting adult expectations on what should have been an enjoyable experience for me, Paul’s first time with a kite.

Then I began to have fun too. When Paul was pulling the string here was no chance for the kite to fly. He’d drop the string and the thing would flutter to the ground. If deal – there would be other days for kite flying. My role was to encourage and to be patient with him. He’s only three, and I, more than 30 years his senior, wasn’t able to get the kite to stay in the sky either. We had a good time together, and that’s what is most important.

As we were leaving the ball diamond (he was the one who decided when we had had enough) he asked, “Daddy, will you take me fishing some day?” (I’d forgotten all about that conversation. I wonder if he still wants to go. I wonder if I can talk him out of it?)

I’ve never caught a fish in my life. It can’t be any harder than trying to fly a kite.

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