I love bald eagles. They are so balanced and graceful, so independent and strong. When I see them soaring effortlessly on thermals of air, or diving down to catch a fish in their powerful talons, I understand why they are an important symbol of America. They rule the sky.
But eagles don’t start out as amazing flyers and hunters. When an eagle chick hatches it is a small defenseless ball of fluff. It can’t do anything to survive without the help of its parents. The adult eagles take turns hunting and guarding the nest almost continuously to keep the rapidly growing eaglet fed. Eaglets gain a pound every few days until in just a few weeks they are the same size as their parents. You can only tell them apart by the white cap of feathers on the head of the adult which changes after a few years. In addition to eating, the other important activity the eaglet does is to exercise their wings. This stage of eagle development is called fledging. The fledge flaps their wings and hops up and down to develop the muscles it takes to make a successful take off. Once the young eagle learns to soar, they then move to gaining hunting skills. They can then move out of the parents nest and become independent.
How can we apply the eagle’s experience of growing up to that of human beings? Parents are responsible for their children’s physical and emotional safety. They must do everything for their kids at first. But slowly the child grows and progresses into adolescence. The goal is to turn over control and responsibility to the child as they show ever increasing mastery of their world. Parenting success is to allow youth to “leave the nest” and “solo” into the world of adults. One the most important gifts we can give our youth is an attitude of success. The author and speaker Zig Ziglar said, “It is your attitude, not your aptitude, that determines your altitude.” This positive attitude is developed day by day from positive emotional support, caring guidance, and opportunities for “spreading their wings” by trying new things and being of service to others.
Children, just as eagles are meant to soar as far and as high as possible. Karen Ravn tells us, ”Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.”