how big is your wingspread?

Its a funny title I know, but its been front and center on my mind lately. I had the opportunity to spend a few days with my daughters this spring. One daughter is on the east coast, though she claims they are actually in the midwest, and one daughter is on the west coast. Now the distance between them is about 2,400 miles, and stretching my arms as wide as I can, I can still barely reach six feet. So in all actuality, they are far out of my reach. But I could still reach them in a day if we needed to.

This week the distance grew to about 7,500 miles as my favorite youngest daughter began her internship with UNRWA in Beirut. I got to talk with her today (the miracle of skype!) and she sounds like she’s done well in finding a room with a good roommate, learned which white bus is the UN’s and which aren’t, is keeping alert, finding her way in her neighborhood and overall doing very well! My head has confidence that she knows what she’s doing and will do good for the UN when they put her to work. My heart of course is full of pride knowing that she can plan and then actually live her plan, even if it takes her to some of the shakier parts of the world, in order to help people.

The pride I feel for my daughters makes me have to dab at my eyes every now and again.

One of the hardest parts of being a parent is letting your children out from under the protection of your wings, and then realizing that they have grown their own wings. It is incredibly rewarding to see my favorite oldest daughter and my favorite youngest daughter both working hard in the world to do good. And even though I trust both of their capabilities and their judgement, every morning, and many evenings I think about them and hope their where they’re supposed to be, safe, curious, having fun, working hard, and keeping perspective. I think most parents have daily moments like that.

I was sitting on the Riverwalk with the one who holds my heart recently. We were watching a family of ducks on the river. Most of the ducklings were in tight formation on the momma duck but one kept drifting out towards the inevitable shower of chips from the people on shore. From time to time the momma duck would issue a sharp call and the duckling would scoot back in line. But I could look forward a few months and see the wings grow on that duckling, see the time when the momma duck pushes them out of the nest, and then its up to them.

Its hard to welcome your children as adults, but its a critical part of having them grow up in our eyes. When you recognize them as adults, its like recognizing that they have their own wings. From time to time they might ask questions about flying, and as a parent, we’re always happy to help, but having them know that they choose the course, the speed, and the destination is a success I think.

Fathers day is coming up soon. I was trying to remember when I thought Dad recognized me as an adult. I kind of think it was after I joined the business. There wasn’t any fanfare or ceremony, I think it just was.

If you’re fortunate enough to be with your parents this fathers day, enjoy it. Let them spread their wings and you tuck yours in and step into the nest for just a little bit so they can enjoy your presence, marvel in your children, and be warmed with pride in what you’ve done. And if you can’t be with them this fathers day, take a moment or two, find a big chair and curl up there, feel their memory in you, thank them for the protective nest they offered and their recognition that you can fly your own way. Maybe take an extra moment quietly, then get back on course.

Take care, keep us parents in your thoughts, keep your parents parents in your thoughts too, we never fly alone in the world.

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