Thursday, May 3, 2012

First time: Flying a kite

Last week, we flew a kite in our backyard. Sam had never flown one before, and it was a perfect day to do it. (It was also a perfect day for line-drying diapers- I think ideal conditions for these things are similar.)

We pulled my old delta kite (the one I got on vacation at Kitty Hawk Kites when I was 12) out of the coat closet and carried it outside. Sam was so excited he was jumping up and down. I barely had to run at all to get the kite up - it jumped up into the air, and we started letting out the string. As it went higher and higher, I remembered.

I don't like flying kites.

The string flipped past my fingers, unwrapping itself from the handle faster and faster as the kite climbed. I watched it nervously and remembered that I don't choose do this activity often for a reason.

I have control issues.

Sam kept urging me to let out more string, to let the kite go higher and higher. The wind was strong, and the kite was tugging hard at the string no matter how fast I let it out. I looked down at the yellow plastic string holding thingy and noted that I had let out more string than ever before.

I had to take a deep breath.

I remembered the summer I had bought the kite (with my own money, carefully saved up for that purpose), remembered my siblings all with their own kites. I remembered my brother, he had cut his foot wide open on a shell the first afternoon we were at the beach in his reckless dash into the water as soon as we arrived. He had to get stitches. He couldn't swim at all for the rest of the week. Our parents got him a stunt kite to fly while he was watching the rest of us play in the ocean.

It was a really cool kite - it had two handles, and it did flips and all kinds of tricks. He always let the string out all the way so it would fly as high as possible. He was that kind of kid. He is that kind of guy.

I never, ever did that.

I had a personal rule about the string - it needed to be covering the yellow plastic. If yellow plastic was showing with no layer of string on top of it, that was too far.

My kites have always been frustrated with me.

I don't want my children to be frustrated for the same reason. As you might imagine, I have other little rules about things. Most of them keep things orderly, keep things safe, and help our (often chaotic) life feel manageable.

Some of them, though, are probably just arbitrary.

So on this day, with Sam in the backyard, I decided to let go.

What was the worst that would happen? We'd lose the kite? Kites can be replaced. Time flying the kite with your little one cannot. I thought about how Sam was already 3 1/2, about how quickly the first 7 months of the twins' babyhood had passed by. The afternoon sun suddenly felt like it was sinking fast, and the crazy joy on Sam's chubby face seemed fleeting.

I took another breath, let him hold the string, and we let it all the way out. My kite, which I've had for 20 years, has never flown that high. Sam squealed with delight, loving it. My hands were sweaty, and I didn't love it, and I constantly fought the impulse to put my hand over his on the handle in case he let go...but I did it anyway.

Nothing is quite like confronting your own issues while trying not to pass them on to your child, and kite flying is a lot cheaper than therapy.

We flew the kite at its maximum height until it was time to go in, when we slowly dragged it back to earth, looping the string over and over across the yellow handle while the kite struggled against us, trying with all its might to stay aloft. When it was finally grounded, we took the dowel rod out of its pockets, carefully folded in its wings, and put it back in the closet.

Every day since, Sam has asked if it's a kite flying day.

I'm working up to it.