image A friend explained to me that adolescent eagles have longer tail feathers than adult eagles. These tail feathers assist the maturing bird in flying, because they tend to lack good judgment in their air-borne expeditions. During puberty, hawks tend to overshoot and undershoot their destinations. The extra length of feathers accommodates the awkwardness of flight imbalance of the struggling youth. A full grown adult sheds these feathers when he has mastered flight.
I love how nature whispers clues to me about raising my own children. As my boys approach the clumsy, bungling, gawky teen years, I move from being ultimate authority into a place of flight adviser, "I wouldn't take off from that position. You won't have enough runway to gain speed."
"You can go on the camp out, but you might not want to go to party the next day. You'll need some good rest sometime over the weekend or you'll be too tired during the school week to study."
My son can heed my advice or try it his way. I have to talk myself into letting him try and fail on his own. It's easier to tell him to go bed rather than watch him fall apart, because he has not rested the night before. Which experience does he learn more from?
I still have to force myself to listen to stories I've no particular interest in concerning my young men's interest in science experiments, cheesy science fiction, twaddle movies and games in order to keep the lines of communication open. It's a gift I give to my sons, not something I like to do. If we are talking about his stuff, the more likely he is to listen when I speak to give advice. I also must discipline myself to not react with anger when I see his failure, or I won't be the soft place he falls in times of trouble. He'll find someone else who most likely lacks maturity and won't have his best interest in mind to listen to him.
Because he's a teenager, my authority must take a back seat and allow advice to drive, or he'll never have a chance to try things for himself. Otherwise, he'll leave my home without developed tail feathers, yet expected by the world to fly with precision. How many adults do I meet who are unprepared to face daily challenges with excellence?