To Fly The Kite

“No, she thought…children never forget. For this reason, it was so important what one said, and what one did, and it was a relief when they went to bed.”
-Virginia Woolf (from To The Lighthouse)

    So says Mrs. Ramsay about her son James who so tirelessly pleads for his parents (namely his dad) to take him “To The Lighthouse” throughout Woolf’s brilliant novel. It has been so interesting to reread this story as a mom. I remember reading it for the first time in my mid-twenties during my first Virginia Woolf stage, and feeling most connected to Lily Broscoe, the outsider – the artist who takes it all in through her painting, who feels both compelled and repelled by the overwhelming Ramsay family. Now, though Mrs. Ramsay is a mother of eight, I can still relate to much of what she thinks and feels about being a mother. Though there is a lot of criticism of modern parenting – how we pry and care too much, this book shows how regardless of how many new dangers may exist in the 21st century, the baseline of parental worry and responsibility has always existed. Now, it seems, more than ever though, you have to watch what you say and do. I have to always remind myself that they understand more than I think they do.
    The lighthouse in our family most recently was our daughter’s new kite. I’d bought her one when purchasing one for a friend’s daughter’s summer birthday. It seemed to be part of a childhood rite of passage, one a four-year-old should be ready for. Though she’d let go of another little boy’s kite a few weeks before — causing the kite to disappear with the strong wind — I still thought with the right coaching we could do this together. So we bought the kite and it sat in the garage as an ever-present reminder that we’d promised we’d take her to fly the kite. But like poor James in Woolf’s novel, our activity was contingent on both the weather and the moods of the parents involved. I’d like to say that I was the Mrs. Ramsay always encouraging my husband to take our child out, but even I would find excuses if it didn’t really fit into our schedule. And then of course there was the wind or lack of wind to contend with. In our case our daughter didn’t have to wait until she was too old to really enjoy the act of flying a kite to experience it. We went, the wind was right and she was euphoric. I watched somewhat from the sidelines, chasing around our younger child. But I thought of Woolf’s words -no, they don’t forget, and I have to remember what I say and what I do and I absolutely can’t wait to get into bed each night.
   

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