As a father, my goal is to give my two children roots to grow and wings to fly. Denis Waitley — in his poem Roots and Wings — beautifully expressed the need and desire of our children to be given roots and wings by parents.
If I had two wishes, I know what they would be
I’d wish for Roots to cling to, and Wings to set me free;
Roots of inner values, like rings within a tree,
and Wings of independence to seek my destiny.
Roots to hold forever to keep me safe and strong.
To let me know you love me, when I’ve done something wrong;
To show me by example, and helps me learn to choose,
To take those actions every day to win instead of lose.
Just to be there when I need you, to tell me it’s all right,
To face my fear of falling when I test my wings in flight;
Don’t make my life too easy, it’s better if I try,
And fail and get back up myself, so I can learn to fly.
If I had two wishes, and two were all I had,
And they could just be granted, by my Mom and Dad;
I wouldn’t ask for money or any store-bought things.
The greatest gifts I’d ask for are simply Roots and Wings.
(By Denis Waitley)
My firstborn Sarah will be 23 in 2018, and graduating from university. This time next year, she’d be a young working adult. The relationship I have with her as my older child and only daughter is incredibly unique and important.
Through our journey, I hope I’ve done enough to give her deep roots and strong wings. I’ve learned that as parents, we have little time to do this. Before my wife and I knew it, our children have become adults, and it’s time for them to leave the nest and build their own.
Time — the most precious commodity — is so essential to build strong parent-child bonds, that influence the development of our children’s roots and wings.
Making memories in the car
Sarah was volunteering at a community hospital in the west, so I sent her there. Correction. I wasn’t literally sending her. She was driving and I was just a companion. You see, she recently passed her driving test, and she needs some practice to gain confidence.
So our routine is that she would drive, and I would accompany her and drive home after that. Through this simple act, I did 3 things for her — help her gain confidence, spend time together, and send her to work. It was a wonderful time of father-daughter bonding.
Just this morning, I told Sarah that I was writing about our relationship and asked if I had spent sufficient time with her. Her reply: “Yes, definitely. Like the past two weeks, you’ve been sending me on this long journey to work. And we can talk about so many things…”
Making memories during the preschool years
As Sarah assured me, scenes from her younger days flooded my mind, as if I was watching a movie playback of my life with my daughter.
I recall when Sarah was a toddler, we'd snuggle on her bed and I’d read to her. Often, I’d create my own stories with imaginary characters and faraway places, which she listened to with wild eyes. As she grew older, we would create stories together, with either of us starting off with “A long, long time ago…” and taking turns to continue the story.
To celebrate Sarah’s 6th birthday, I excitedly woke up before 5AM to fill balloons with helium, and sneaked them into her room while she was still asleep. The first thing that she saw were the balloons. When she looked out of her window, a “Happy Birthday” banner waved in the air. Up till today, Sarah fondly remembers that special surprise.
Making memories during the formal school years
When Sarah was in Primary School, I would try to surprise her by picking her up from school. Standing by the gate, I was usually the only father eagerly waiting for my adorable girl.
Through the crowd, I would spot Sarah with her school bag and talking to her classmates as they came out the school gate. I’d stand right in front of her to block her way. She’d stop and, upon realising that it was me, break into a bright smile. My heart always melted when she cried out “Daddy!”
When Sarah was older, we enjoyed watching movies together. I would ask, "Would you like to go eat popcorn?" and she’d know that it's a movie date.
There were also shopping dates; I believe Sarah enjoys shopping with me, because I am very patient, and perhaps more importantly, I always settle the bill.
These memories came rushing back this morning as Sarah and I reminisced our favourite father-daughter moments whilst she drove.
They seemed small at the time, but I now know see these moments helped shape her sense of identity. She saw that I deeply loved her through my acts of love and affirmation, and she didn’t have to worry about my love. Her mother’s love also influenced her, creating a safe environment for her to mature as a young woman. This security gave her strong roots, from which she could grow and spread her wings.
Sarah penned these words in a Father’s Day card in her first year of University. I am not a perfect father, but her words to me have encouraged me.
“You always assure me that it’s okay to be me, & that I’m beautiful inside and out, you teach me to spread my wings out, you help me to fly.
You also see the best in people when they’re not doing so well, like how you spotted and picked up the broken pieces of coral.
No one would’ve picked up the unwanted pieces, which to me represent the lost souls, the inmates, the marginalised, the poor, the different, the troubled — Daddy, you have an amazing heart for God & His people…I wanna be like that someday too.
Thank you for making me who I am today. I hope you’re proud of your art piece (me) so far. I’m not done yet though.
Happy Father’s Day, daddy. Stay strong. Love you.”
© 2018 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Jason has been married for over 20 years and is a loving, involved father to two young adults. Founder of the Dads for Life movement, his greatest passion is to see Family restored through turning the heart of every father back to his children, and for every child to have a good father-figure in their life.