Our Family Flies Kites, Kind Of

We have many passions around here and kite flying is now definitely one of them.

Ever since my newly turned five-year-old received a BB-8 kite for his birthday last month, practically nothing can stop us from taking it out for a flying session out on the cul-de-sac. Well, the two-year-old can stop us. Can she ever.

Interesting thing about toddlers, particularly toddlers with older siblings, they know how to pull the strings. Unfortunately, it’s not kite strings they are good at pulling, it’s emotional strings. Kite strings? Toddlers are terrible at pulling those. Or at least mine is. I mean, she can pull fairly hard and she has a surprisingly tight grip when her brother is trying to pry it out of her hands, but as far as kite flying goes, her string-pulling technique is all wrong. Also, she is rather low to the ground and not exceptionally fast when she’s not being chased, so getting the kite to do anything more than bump lazily along the ground is nearly impossible for her.

The five-year-old, on the other hand, is reasonably adept at the ancient art of the kite. It’s not surprising, really, because it’s in his blood. I don’t remember ever flying a kite as a child and I’ve never had the occasion to ask my wife if she did, but my dad has enjoyed kite flying from time to time in his post-retirement years and I read The Kite Runner when I was a young adult and loved it. Yes, I remember devouring The Kite Runner and momentarily considering taking up competitive kite flying complete with shards of glass glued to the string because that sounded amazing. Then I guess I decided it was too much work and, frankly, there are probably no legitimate kite fighting competitions in this country anyway.

I also remember standing beside my father on the beach one summer on a glorious sunny day squinting up at a kite dancing and swooping in the brisk ocean breeze. It seemed like it was up there for hours, almost touching the resplendent blue sky. Then we looked down at our kite lying on the ground covered in sand, wondering silently why ours wouldn’t fly like that other guy’s and why no one told us kite flying involved so much untangling of string from around our legs. It was kind of like practicing for a very random and unpredictable three-legged race. In retrospect, perhaps our last name is more apt than we ever realized.

My son’s first kite flying experience was better in some ways than mine but there were also some familiar frustrations. Of course, he is five while I was probably around twenty-five, so the good news is he has a lot of potential for growth and many more years of kite flying and untangling knotted up string ahead of him. And, we were fortunate to have some good wind a couple recent afternoons thanks to late-season cool fronts pushing through. This was fortuitous because as kite-flying veterans like me know, wind is key. So, with my expert guidance, my son was able to get BB-8 up in the air and keep him there for as much as a minute or two.

It was quite rewarding. Father and son working together on our shared passion project.

Then the toddler arrived on the scene unexpectedly, like Jason from Friday the 13th except on a tricycle. She saw the kite flopping around on the asphalt and did she slow down? No, she did not. If anything, she peddled faster. Racing straight across the kite string until it was hopelessly tangled in the tricycle wheels. I attempted a salvage mission, but quickly realized amputation was the only option. I broke the string with my hands, gathered up the kite, and returned it to its resting place in the upstairs closet.

The toddler is now banned from kite flying until she is mature enough to handle the rigors and responsibilities incumbent upon those who call themselves true flyers. Or until tomorrow when she complains enough. Either way, I suspect we have many kite-flying experiences ahead of us. But really, it’s impossible to say for sure. Sometimes our passions can come and go as rapidly as the wind.

For more from Explorations of Ambiguity by Andrew Knott, like us on Facebook and sign up here to get the latest updates right in your inbox! Fatherhood: Dispatches From the Early Years is available at Amazon.