Yesterday I watched as a father helped his son launch and fly a kite. You don’t see that as often these days. It brought back lots of memories, first from childhood, and then as a father myself.
Kites were a big deal to me when I was young. My friends and I had lots of fun flying them, but even more fun building them. We built bat kites out of black trash bags and dowels. We built exotic kites out of rattan and tissue paper that I stole out of my mom’s craft boxes. The best kites were our “Battle Kites” that contained razor blades, pins and sandpaper edges as weaponry for kite wars in the skies.
We learned a lot about kites; how they flew; how they crash; how a tail can add stability; how to adjust to the strength of the wind – or lack of wind. We also learned that the tiny string is essential. Without the string, the kite will, at best, fall from the sky. At worst, it will blow away never to be seen again. And ultimately, we learned that if the person at the end of the string doesn’t hold on, it’s all over for that kite.
As I watched the father and son flying the kite, I remember doing the same with my kids during beach vacations. It made me sentimental for that stage of life. I’ve been feeling sentimental a lot lately, mostly because of the wedding I wrote about last week.
As of now, we have married off four of our five kids. 80% have left the next and begun their own families. That is wonderful, and weird. It happened so fast. It seems like just yesterday that I was the dad with the kite, or building sandcastles, or pinewood derbies, etc.
In that sentimental state of mind, I watched as the kite strained against the wind, pulling the string taught. A U2 lyric from the song “Kite” came to mind:
Who’s to say where the wind will take you
Who’s to say what it is will break you
I don’t know which way the wind will blow
Who’s to know when the time’s come around
Don’t want to see you cry
I know that this is not goodbye
In summer I can taste the salt in the sea
There’s a kite blowing out of control on a breeze
I wonder what’s gonna happen to you
You wonder what has happened to me (Kite, U2)
But I know where I hope the wind will take them.
As I was exploring this metaphor, and feeling very paternal, I thought about how I need to make sure that the tether between me and my kids remains strong and maintained. How that relationship is vital.
Then it occurred to me that I was being a wee bit arrogant, and missing the greater point: It is not me that my kids need to be most securely tethered to. I am flawed. I am human. I am not completely dependable. If the most important tether that keeps my kids aloft is me, or any other person, they are in danger of losing control, and crashing to the earth. Sure, I can do my best, and that relationship is important, but…
If not their very dad, then who? The Savior Jesus Christ. It is He who serves as a dependable, all-knowing anchor for them.
If my kids are tethered firmly to the Savior, they can weather any storm, or continue progressing through any doldrums. Even more, should they crash – and most of us do – He will provide the lifeline that can help them return to loftier heights.
He who can literally calm the winds can also help them use that very storm to attain new heights. And He is always there. Always.
“Faith in…the Lord Jesus Christ, is the main anchor we must have in our lives to hold us fast during times of social turbulence and wickedness that seem to be everywhere today. Our faith, for it to be meaningful and effective and to hold us fast, must be centered in Jesus Christ, his life and his atonement, and in the restoration of his gospel to the earth in the last days.” M. Russell Ballard (link)
So what does that mean as a parent? While I can try my very best to be a solid anchor for them, a more valuable gift would be to help them develop that faith in the Savior. (Something that should have started long before – when they were securely in my nest.)
Here are a few ideas, from people much wiser than I:
“The pure gospel of Jesus Christ must go down into the hearts of our children by the power of the Holy Ghost. It will not be enough for them to have had a spiritual witness of the truth and to want good things later. It will not be enough for them to hope for some future cleansing and strengthening. Our aim must be for them to become truly converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ while they are with us. Then they will have gained a strength from what they are, not only from what they know. They will become disciples of Christ.” (Henry B. Eyring, in Shaun D. Stahle, “Inspiring Students to Stand Strong amid Torrent of Temptation,” Church News,Aug. 18, 2001)
“The first and most important inner quality you can instill in a child is faith in God. The first and most important action a child can learn is obedience. And the most powerful tool you have with which to teach a child is love.” Elder L. Tom Perry (link)
“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the Living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.” (D&C 68:25.)
“Think of it! The power of parental prayer! As we consider the challenge of rearing children in a world fraught with temptations, false ideologies, and materialistic enticements, do you not feel the need for guidance and inspiration beyond your human capacity? There is no greater help or strength that a father or mother can obtain than through securing that help from the Lord.” Elder Boyd.K. Packer (link)
Is it any wonder that there is a constant drumbeat from the Lord’s servants that we teach our children, pray with our children, study the scriptures with our children, and set proper examples or love and service for our children? We have a specific charge from the Lord himself to teach them to have faith in Christ – or it is on our heads.
I desire that my own children stay tethered to the anchor that is the Savior of mankind. Now that they are grown and gone, that desire does not dampen – it even seems to intensify. Thankfully, they are well-tethered. Knowing this brings that elusive parental peace.
John had it right when he wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”(3 John 1:3)
I want them to fly. I want them to find stability in the unpredictability of life. I want them to know how to be lifted back up should they crash. I want them to find joy in their flight.