Roots, Wings, and Thunderstorms

A beautiful sky was appearing after the storm tonight.  I love thunderstorms. Watching the clouds grow and change as a storm builds is exciting.  The light becomes very different.  Mother Nature is getting ready to put on quite a show.  And I want to see it all.  It brings back the best memories…

Some years ago I was on my porch with my adult daughter watching the big thunderstorm rumble into our yard. We were both enjoying the anticipation as well as the storm itself. I asked my daughter what memories popped into her head whenever she heard a big storm. She replied, “Camp, of course! We had nothing else; no TV, no computer, just the outdoors. Thunderstorms were great!” Funny thing. This was the same experience with me as a child at camp.

We talked about exciting and adventurous experiences in our childhood, and about childhood itself. We analyzed why children feel the way they do, and what is it that ‘makes a difference’ when they grow up. One thing kept ringing loud and clear. Children who are given experiences that challenge them, who are encouraged to take a chance and ‘do it’, and who have the firm love and support of their family, seem to grow up with a good, strong sense of self. Roots and wings.

I think of the swings on the playground and ‘yelling’ commands with excitement when a child first learns to pump a swing.  “Kick them out.  Tuck them in.  Pull.  Yes, you can do it!”  As children grow older, I think of opening the front door and letting my child ride his bike, alone, to the playground.  Then, going to sleepover camp for a month, at age eight.  My children begged to go, loved every minute of it, and I am convinced it was part of their foundation.  Roots and wings.

I was the opposite of a helicopter parent.  Friends were a little shocked to see my child roller-blading to school.  He couldn’t quite tie the laces tight enough, so his first grade teacher helped him.  They wondered if there was a ‘problem’ when my children went off to camp, and to prep school.  My daughter went to Italy, alone, after college graduation.  We’re talking speaking no Italian, as well.

After all of these different experiences, friends would then say, “Your children are so lucky to have these opportunities”.  That was quite a change.  I would smile and just say, “Roots and wings”.  They had the roots, with plenty of love and support.  Sometimes I felt brave and alone giving them the wings.  That was the hard part.  I’m so glad I did.

In my classroom, I approach each learning experience and activity, planned or unplanned, as an exciting opportunity. We are a family. We help each other, support each other, and encourage each other. We provide roots for each other with daily routine, tenderness, and a positive, fun attitude. We give each other wings when we learn how to write our name, pump a swing, stand in front of a group to talk, or try something new. Roots and wings.

Remember, it’s all the little experiences, over and over again, that we build upon. It’s not the big things that make a difference. Dancing with painted feet, coming to school at night and singing in the dark, shopping in a real Indian market, painting to classical music, setting up nap mats for other children, finding a new place on our big map with the magnifying glass, reading all the name cards without help….it is the culmination of all these activities, and many others, that make the difference in the classroom.

I hope that in years to come, you and your child sit through a thunderstorm together, walk through the woods together, or sing in the dark together, and find it is an experience that is exciting. I hope that you have helped to give your child the experiences to feel a happy and confident sense of self. Roots and wings.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Family, Imagination, Inspiration, Mother Nature, Nature, self esteem, wonder and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

64 Responses to Roots, Wings, and Thunderstorms

  1. Sue Vincent says:

    My sons too were encouraged to experience and ‘have a go’… we were talking about it, Nick and I, only yesterday. It doesn’t just give a child the security to know there is a place and a heart to go back to, wherever and whenever they are, it teaches them how to think for themselves…how to look up and out at the world… and how to learn from it. It encourages the habit of growth and possibility…and we are faily sure that the whole process contributed to my son’s recovery by preparing his brain for what would be needed.
    The consequences of parenting last a lifetime.

  2. beetleypete says:

    More Jennie wisdom, worth its weight in gold. You perfectly illustrate everything that is wrong with much of modern parenting. The refusal to allow children to be children, and do childish things at the time when they should be doing just that. Trying to be like their friends, instead of their parents, and never cutting the apron strings. We already have a generation of 30 year-old ‘children’, and it gets worse every year. In the future, we are going to see 80 year-old parents struggling to look after 60 year-old children who have never grown up.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. TanGental says:

    I suppose our equivalent was to tell my two that if they pleaded for stuff then I’d likely turn a deaf ear but an experience and I’d support them all the way. And now as young adults they are as adventurous as any and as well adjusted as I could hope. The roots part of your equation was implied though having mentioned it I see how important that component was
    We enjoyed their experiences hearing about them. Lovely post Jennie

  4. Ritu says:

    Wonderful thoughts Jennie!
    I try so hard to give my kids their experiences … The wings they’ll need to survive life… But it doesn’t help that the helicopter aspect is thrown down by the grandparents and each decision I make to give independence is frowned upon!

  5. Léa says:

    A sky show! With the appropriate music I hope. I prefer classical but have been known to enjoy the skies with any number of artists from the Beatles to… but why limit ourselves? A major sky show is a bit like your 4 July and the Boston Pops, n’est pas?

  6. Norah says:

    What a beautiful way to look at it, Jennie. Yes, I also gave my children roots and wings. It now gives me enormous pleasure to see my son giving his children roots and wings. And we all love watching thunderstorms! 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      When it comes full circle, that is twice the pleasure. Watching the fruits of your labor and watching a thunderstorm- both are terrific. I’m so glad. Thank you, Norah.

  7. Opher says:

    Roots and wings – so true. My parents let me hitch-hike around France when I was fifteen. It was an unforgettable experience.

  8. Ellen says:

    This lovely post takes me back many decades ago. On each of the many refrigerator doors I’ve had, since my children were small, is a magnet. It is printed with the words that served as my mentor. “There are two things we should give our children : one is roots and the other is wings.” William Hodding Carter II. The roots part was easy. Stepping back, allowing them to spread their wings and fly on their own was more challenging to me. Fortunately, they flew! Thank-you!

  9. Dan Antion says:

    We encouraged our daughter to enjoy life and the world around her. We worry when she goes hiking alone, but we know she’s prepared, and we communicate.

  10. Lifetime Chicago says:

    I have done this with my children and studnets…..I just love storms….great writing.

  11. How beautiful and how inspiring!

  12. I so wanted to be the helicopter parent. In some ways I was. I could be inside while the children played outside with their friends in our back yard but I knew everything that was going on. But the truth of the matter was, my children really didn’t allow the helicopter parenting. When my daughter was 4, she put her hands on her hips and said to me “Mother, let me live my own life” with such determination that I knew she meant it. My son was carefully observed while playing on the porch with Taiwanese children and another military family’s child that spoke what is referred to as ebonic. They didn’t understand each other’s language but they understood each other. A blond child had to be closely guarded but I could do it at a safe distance. They had to be free. My children had very unusual experiences in life compared to many but they were hopefully the kind that gave them some very broad roots and I encouraged the deepest expanse of wings. I love your stories of the experiences you and your children had. Very different but the end result is much the same. Strong roots, wide wings. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      I loved reading this, Marlene. You detail roots and wings in a widespread audience, meaning you and your children had a diverse community. So, it was far more than just letting go. It was understanding other cultures… your neighbors. Isn’t it interesting how children can understand each other without speaking the same language? You knew they had to be free (love your daughter’s comment) and you let them fly. And that’s why your kids are terrific! Yes, we have different stories with our children, but the same ending. Strong roots, wide wings! 🙂

  13. AJ says:

    I often have conversations about the amount of freedom and responsibility I had as a kid, but I think it truly set me up for success so I try to do the same thing for my students

  14. robbiecheadle says:

    Lovely post, Jennie. What you say is true, you have to give your children the opportunity to fly. It is much harder for us than for them most of the time.

  15. Opportunity to excel I call it. Nice job on the post and the child rearing.

  16. frenchc1955 says:

    Thank you for your beautiful observations!

  17. This is such a beautiful reflection, Jennie, on the gist of parenting (and teaching). I too love thunderstorms and miss them… (we rarely have them where I live). But more so I love your reflections of “roots and wings” and how when children know that you have their back, they are free to experiment, adventure, and grow. Have a wonderful week, my friend. ❤

  18. Lovely post, Jennie, it brought back some lovely memories to me. When we lived in Spain we saw the most amazing thunderstorms and my youngest and I used to sit on our balcony watching the lightening out over the sea.

  19. Darlene says:

    It is our job as parents to give them roots and wings, the wherewithal to deal with problems that arise. I was often told that I gave my daughter too much freedom while she was growing up. But now she lives on a small island making pottery. It isn’t easy but she has what it takes and she is happy.

  20. Libby Sommer says:

    roots and wings. makes sense to me. what a wise woman you are. you sound like the perfect parent (if there is such a thing) and a wonderful teacher of children. well done you.

  21. dgkaye says:

    Beautiful post Jennie. I love the phrase ‘roots and wings’. 🙂

  22. Independence . . what a tricky thing. We raise them hopefully, to be independent, then how bittersweet it is when they are! haha! wonderful post-you have such a Montessori spirit!

  23. Pingback: Roots, Wings, and Thunderstorms ~ Jennie Fitzkee | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

  24. swamiyesudas says:

    VERY different experiences from what we have in India. Not regards Thunderstorms; I am Sure Most Indians, (children included) don’t mind them, whereas I hate them. All that Noise! 😦 .

    Both School and Home Education in India are Very much behind what they Can be and Should be. Praying for Better times.

  25. Sarah says:

    Roots and wings indeed! Wonderful thoughts beautifully expressed, Jennie!

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