My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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two gifts for your children: roots and wings

A few weeks ago, a father told me that when he became a parent, his father reminded him that parents must give their children two things: roots and wings. Give them roots to keep them grounded through tough times. Give them wings to soar above everything, explore new worlds and fly farther than we ever did.

I think that this is important for most parents to remember….

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8 comments to two gifts for your children: roots and wings

  • Bob

    Hmmm, the category for this post is “myspace”. So are we to believe that you’re equating myspace to wings? I would think that wings would be something far less vacuous.

  • rodders

    I live in the country. I make my living from online. My kids play outside most days. My kids are gaming addicts. This father’s advice is sink those roots deep in real dirt and lift those wings on real air. A life online is not properly alive.

  • Scott

    Being the child of two highly over protective parents, I couldn’t agree more.

    While there are things in this world that are dangerous and we can’t change, there are a multitude of things are worth taking risks for and that we can change.

    Life is too short to constantly live in fear or feel unequipped to make a difference in your own life or the lives of others.

  • That is so inspiring, and I thank my parents for giving me both.

    The “wings” reminds me of this poem by Georgia Douglas Johnson that I heard at a Yale open house (before they rejected me =p):

    Your World

    Your world is as big as you make it
    I know, for I used to abide
    In the narrowest nest in a corner
    My wings pressing close to my side

    But I sighted the distant horizon
    Where the sky-line encircled the sea
    And I throbbed with a burning desire
    To travel this immensity.

    I battered the cordons around me
    And cradled my wings on the breeze
    Then soared to the uttermost reaches
    with rapture, with power, with ease!

  • I really like your blog and I see it’s been on since 1997! I am amazed. You have done a great work.

  • Ken

    Would your family be Unitarian Universalist perhaps? The phrase appears in the UU hymn “Spirit of Life,” and has been adopted by many UU churches as the name of their religious education programs for children.

    “Spirit of life, come unto me
    Sing in my heart, all the stirrings of compassion
    Blow in the wind, rise in the sea
    Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice
    Roots hold me close, wings set me free
    Spirit of life, come to me, come to me

    (Caroline McDade, 1978)

  • This is exactly what I told myself when my son was born, 17 years ago, because I had plenty of wings and no roots. But don’t expect too much. Children have their own personality and that’s it. He has, despite all my efforts, leaden roots, like many of his contemporaries, and I am still waiting to see the wings sprout.[disclosure: it is of course my fault].

  • Cameron

    I find the comments on the origin of the saying, “You can give your children but two things, one is roots and the other wings.” very interesting. I used this, with some critical acclaim, as a parental toast at my daughters wedding. Roots from the parents; wings as permission, but largely influenced by their peer group as they get older. At this point in their life they don’t listen to us much – that’s why the roots are so important! Anyway, I understand a former presidential press secretary, Hodding Carter – I believe, to be credited with the saying.(?) Anyone have any other theories?

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