“When I get older, I will be stronger –
They’ll call me Freedom, just like a wavin’ flag.”
- K’Naan, “Wavin’ Flag” (video after post)
Determination is generally a well-respected quality in grown-ups – which is why it seems odd that the same trait in children can often become infuriating.
As usual, it took one of my kids to teach me a lesson I should have known anyway; in this case the instructor was my 6-year-old daughter, and the occasion was her dogged determination to go fly a kite.
She had been bugging me about it for practically the whole summer, but usually at the worst possible moments, like at the end of a long day, or prior to a weekend when we already had several other things scheduled. One such day I finally said to her, “You know what? Go put it on the calendar. Then we’ll be sure to save some time for it.”
Last Saturday, her day finally arrived. (And yes … the writing is adorable.)
It took us a lot longer than I expected to get the first flight off the ground, as the normally reliable winds at Carmel River beach were only intermittently gusty. Eventually I got some decent height under the wings and handed my daughter the reins to keep things under control. So far, no problem.
The point of contention came when she wanted to launch the kite on her own. Since I initially had so much trouble, I figured there was no way my 6-year-old could get the kite to fly – and despite several attempts on her part, she wasn’t able to do it. I finally asked if she wanted my help again, to which she begrudgingly agreed.
We carried on like this for a few more flights: me tossing the kite up and quickly letting out some string, and her running like crazy down the beach to get as much wind resistance as possible. And just as I thought we had the perfect system worked out, my little angel wanted to fire me again.
By this time, we had been out there for a couple of hours, I could tell she was getting tired, and I had absolutely zero expectation that she’d get the kite in the air. So I told her as much, which led to an argument and moping and eventually tears of frustration from my daughter at not being allowed to struggle through something all by herself. The discussion ended with me saying something along the lines of “Fine … go ahead. But don’t ask me for any more help,” or something similarly brilliant.
So she took the kite in her hands, trying over and over to get the thing airborne … and it never happened. Thankfully, she was humble enough to ask for my help again – and even more thankfully, I wasn’t enough of an idiot to decline. We resumed our regular routine that had worked before, and I got to watch her race across the sand with a high flying kite in her wake.
And if I wanted a happy ending, I’d finish the story right there.
As if the first failed experiment never happened, she soon decided she wanted to try it alone again, and the results were similarly disastrous. It was also time for us to leave, news that my daughter greeted with a mini-meltdown. She wasn’t ready to go home, and she darn sure wasn’t ready to give up – but that’s exactly what I was telling her to do. I stood my ground, and chauffeured one upset, cross-armed little girl back home.
So back to that determination thing: clearly this girl has it in spades, and just as clearly, it sometimes drives me simply bonkers. What I realized later that evening - and about 6 hours later than I should have - is that her brand of determination probably shouldn’t be discouraged as much as I tried to ... because before I know it, my girl’s going to fly that blasted kite.
Considering all that I just wrote, it’s probably no coincidence that this song happens to be one of my daughter’s current favorites. And since it was also the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, chances are pretty good that you might be fairly sick of it by now, but I don’t care; it’s still catchy as hell, and I’m still enjoying it with every listen.
K’Naan, “Wavin’ Flag,” (click to play):
August 24, 2010
“When I get older, I will be stronger –