Just Keep Flying


I’ve professed my love of story-telling podcasts before and This American Life is certainly the grandfather of them all.

The episode, “Need to Know Basis,” didn’t disappoint and really stuck with me. Act two is one of several episodes that deal with college drop out rates and what it takes to succeed. The US has a particularly high college drop-out rate, especially in community colleges. I had no idea that only one in three first-time freshman complete their two year degree in three years. Sadly, to verify these statistics, I learned that my home state of Indiana is DEAD LAST for percentage of first-time freshman who complete their degree in three years at a public, two year college.

So Zoe Chace (a TAL producer), is looking for what it takes to beat the odds and introduces us to star student Demetrius Wilson, at Hostos Community College in the South Bronx. Demetrius is a freshman and HAS IT GOING ON. Zoe pegs him as the “success” and wants to find out the reasons behind it.  

We meet Demetrius Sr., an in-charge, involved father who teeters on the verge of being WAY TOO involved… until we learn the why behind his helicopter-parenting style.  No spoilers here, but let’s just say I was impressed with Demetrius Sr.’s wisdom and grace.

Here’s where the podcast turns into stationery. Demetrius Sr., in offering advice to his son, tells him, “Just keep flying.”




There’s no way to paraphrase this father’s take on things and do it justice, so here it is from the transcript:

“I want him to just keep flying, not so close to the sun that he melts his wings but just keep moving forward. Don’t pull back. Stay in motion.”

Who DOESN’T need this advice?  It made me smile and press pause so I could grab a pencil and write it down.

Just keep flying! I could hear this message everyday and not get tired of it.  I could share this with my children everyday and I’m certain that each one would blossom under this advice.

There are no requirements for flight.

No directions on the correct method or materials.

No ultimatums, no time limit.

No shame in failing.

When my children were very young I spent a lot of time qualifying myself – teaching the “why’s” behind hygiene, road-crossing and thank-you’s.  My children are STILL young but I have begun to recognize and really feel the difference in parenting older children who can blow their own noses, make meals, friends and mistakes on their own.  It is so hard guys.  It’s HARD.  Plenty of directions remain but now is the time to also begin encouraging freedom.  Freedom to fail, freedom to thrive, freedom to be what they were created to be.

I will absolutely begin encouraging my children to just keep flying.

But you know what?  The next time I’m watching my child forge their own path and I find myself holding my breath and my tongue, I’m going to give myself the same advice and I want you to do the same.

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