Life and Health

Kite Flying as a Metaphor for Life

The other day the Munchkin and I went kite flying. We rediscovered kite flying during this spring of the pandemic and on windy days she asks if we can go fly her kite. It also helped that for a while “Mary Poppins” was her favorite movie so when we found some cheap kites we decided to do it for ourselves.

Now that the fall winds are starting to blow and the calm warmth of summer is saying good-bye we wanted to enjoy a lazy weekend day and go fly a kite; it would get us out of the house so the Mr. could sleep and enjoy some beautiful fall weather down by the river. We drove to our preferred tree-less windy spot and set up to fly the kite. Up until recently, I hadn’t flown a kite since I was a small child with my own parents so I had some vague, romanticized, nostalgic idea of what kite flying was about but let me tell you what it really is – a good metaphor and practice for life and I feel we should all go back to flying kites a little more often after the experience on this particular fall weekend.

After this adventure I also completely understand why kite flying has become a thing of the past in this fast paced, instant gratification age of the twenty first century; kite flying requires patience and follow through (not two of my strong suits usually either). There were so many times when myself (5’10”) and the Munchkin (40″) could not get our act together because of the disproportionate nature of our heights. We couldn’t get the kite off the ground. It dive bombed the Earth multiple times, it failed in the Douglas-Adams-throw-yourself-at-the-ground-and-miss strategy, the string got tangled, the tail got tangled, the string AND tail got tangled, and it was probably 20 minutes of frustration. I probably uttered a few expletives at the kite and I was ready to give up after only 20 minutes of trying something.

I had a moment where I almost packed it up and gave in but thought what lesson would that teach her? After only 20 minutes I almost let this THING beat me. No wonder she doesn’t want to learn to pedal her bike, no wonder she’s quick to get frustrated when she doesn’t get something the first time; she’s watching me do the same thing because I’m so used to just doing things I’m good at that when it gets hard I want to stop. That’s not the lesson I want to teach her and it’s not at all how life rolls. Just as I was having this epiphany of how my behavior around trying to get this thin piece of fabric in the air a gust of wind came and something magical happened; she (the kite not the Munchkin) flew. Rainbow, as we’ve lovingly named the kite, flew up into the air and I couldn’t let the string out fast enough. She sailed high and I was overcome with childish glee because some part of me was flying too.

All the frustration and annoyance was replaced by the wonder that comes from having a small sense of what the birds feel.

And in that time I realized kite flying is really a metaphor for life. Not only do you have to keep trying and working towards something but if you’re prepared and something magical comes along you take off flying. You could hit the ground a million times but eventually by keeping going you set yourself up to be ready. Talent will only take you so far; if you’re willing to give up within the first 20 minutes you’re not going to make it but if you continue working at it and trying eventually you will take off.

Let’s also talk about what happens once you’re kite is in the air. It doesn’t just automatically stay there; you have to keep the kite steady, adjust for changes in the air, and if you stop focusing the kite might dive bomb the ground again or be ripped out of your hand. You don’t get to just sit back and relax once you’re kite is soaring; you have to occasionally pull the string, let out some more line (if you have it) or reel some back in again. Kite flying is an active form of meditation and practice to stay focused on the task at hand.

You have to keep working towards your goals while you’re waiting for the gust; it generally doesn’t happen if you’re going to sit back and wait but it also shows that you have to keep your eyes on your goal once you’ve got it. Life is dynamic; full of roadblocks, distractions, hurdles that want to throw you off your path but also magical moments that can propel you forward if you’re prepared for them.

We shouldn’t be afraid to do things or go for things that take time or effort. In this fast-paced “NOW” world we should make room for the stuff that makes us slow down and try a little harder. That is where the real feeling of accomplishment comes from, the ability to pick ourselves up after all those faceplants and soar into the sky.

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