Will You Be a Flight Attendant, a Pilot, or an Air Traffic Controller This School Year?

Like many families, our's took advantage of the break from school to do some traveling this summer.  As we made our way from one destination to the other by air travel, I was struck by the parallels between helping passengers get from one location to another and parenting kids from birth to college.  After all, our children are really just passengers, passing through our homes and our lives as they soar to their own destinations and build lives in a world of their own making. Our job as parents? Take care of the passengers given to us.  At each stage of their journey with us, they need us to fulfill different roles.

When they are young, we are the flight attendants.  It is a very hands-on relationship between young kids and parents.  Just like a good flight attendant, we make sure they are fed, warm enough, cool enough, pointing the way to exits and bathrooms, and cleaning up after them when they leave a room.  We certainly spend a fair amount of time packing and unpacking vehicles for the journey and are forever trying to find a place to shove an extra bag!  As passengers on a plane, when we experience turbulence, we look immediately to the flight attendants-if they are clam, we know there is nothing to worry about.  As young kids experience the bumps and storms of school and friends, they look to their parents for reassurance.

As our kids get a bit older, our role as parents transforms into one more like a pilot.  We know the destination and our children trust us to get them safely there.  With help from GPS, we literally navigate them to school, to church, to soccer practice, to piano lessons, to tutors, and to friends houses.  But older elementary and junior high students depend on their parents to help them navigate much more important paths as well.  We are the experienced travelers on this flight path of life, and they trust us to make decisions on their behalf.  As they transition from elementary school to junior high, it is important for us to start inviting them more and more to leave the passenger's seat and move into the copilot's seat. After all, they will be flying solo one day.  We want them to make mistakes now, so we can help them learn from each one under the guidance of the more experienced pilot.  We involve them in decision-making, goal-setting, and coach them to start handling situations on their own.  

Before we know it we have teenage drivers and young adults in our home, and our role changes again to something resembling an air traffic controller.  Increasingly, our job is happening from a more remote location and over some sort of communication system rather than face-to-face.  Our goals turn from making sure they are fed to making sure they don't crash-literally or figuratively-and we can't rest until everyone has landed safely back at home each night.  As our students become their own pilots, they still depend on us chime in when we see danger headed their way.  They check in with us occasionally for advice on how to navigate around particularly bumpy patches in their journey.  While they rarely want to admit it, they know we have the map and take comfort in knowing they can depend on us for advice in times of trouble.  

So, will you be a flight attendant, a pilot, or an air traffic controller this year?  If you, have more than one child, the chances are that you will have more than one role to play.  They are all important roles to play and the flight wouldn't be complete without each one, so I leave you with advice from Abraham Lincoln-"Whatever you are, be a good one."