It is a wonder how the small things carry the most weight in life. I remember from my childhood, the anticipation of going to Prospect Park in Brooklyn with my father to fly kites. Typically we would make our kites at home the night before. Using brown craft paper or newspaper and balsa wood, string and Elmer’s glue, my father and I would work together to make the kites, he giving me tips along the way. Since my Mother was always sewing clothes for someone, we would get a piece of cloth for the kite’s tail from her supply of fabric scraps. The night prior to flight was filled with excitement as I imagined how high my kite would fly the next day.
The following morning we’d go to the park and my dad would instruct me on the proper way help the kite gain flight. He guided me in gauging the wind for lift and recognizing the direction it was blowing. Once our kite was off the ground, he’d let me hold the string and all I could do was look up at the sky as the kite soared to higher and higher heights. I wondered what it must feel like to fly.
My father taught me many things. As I flew my kite, I thought of the stories of Benjamin Franklin using his kite to prove ideas about conductivity. But my father insisted that as I learn about Ben Franklin, that I also learn about African American inventors like Garret A Morgan. I would often discuss various other scientific principals, with my father as my brain was like a sponge at those times. Hungry for knowledge, I asked my father how the kite could fly and how did my father know how to make a kite (remember this was a time when parents still did things with their children, before they would spend money on something they could make and be a great bonding experience for parent and child). I look back in retrospect now and thank him for those lessons. Back then I often thought he and my mother were punishing me by giving me extra work to do, especially when it came to school. I remember learning the U.S. states and their capitals and my parents making me learn the Map of Africa at the same time. No one else in my class had to do the same thing. What I was learning however, was how to be an individual and an independent thinker and not even knowing it. My father advised me to never settle. To always quest to learn and know more. To test/challenge what I was told or read. Simple activities like kite flying was a part of that unbeknownst to me at that time.
Later in life as other kids were being pressured into certain things, I was unmoved. I already knew I was different and never felt the need to fit in with the latest fad or mischievous activity. Don’t get me wrong I did my share of bad things but I was not easily tempted. What did come of it, was that I was not a afraid to say “no” when others ask me to join in or participate in something that I did not want to do, something many other kids fell victim to – and still do till this day. My parents were raising a leader not a follower.
As the tables turned and I became a father, I found myself returning back to those very lessons to raise my son – even flying a kite. I don’t want to sound cliché’ but you get out what you put in. Parents remember challenge your kids so they won’t crack under pressure when someone else does.
-By M.Kwasi Pecou