YOU ARE THE WIND BENEATH MY WINGS
Dee Chadwick
16 Sep 2019
The song, sung by Bette Midler - ‘You Are The Wind Beneath My Wings’ has been on my preferred play list for a long time and my thoughts are led off in two different directions when I listen to it.

DIRECTION ONE – NOT ONE DIRECTION!

As a parent, we provide the wind beneath the wings of our offspring.  We also provide the wind beneath the wings of our partners, siblings, friends as a part of their support network. We support them with that wind adapting according to need from a financial, emotional, spiritual, practical, physical presence. It morphs into many forms.

It forms hugs to cuddle as a show of love or to offer comfort at times of stress or uncertainty. It changes into ears to listen to the happy sharings, the off-loadings, the asking for advice. It swaps into hands – hands to join in with tasks, to help carry the loads, to launch that first solo bike riding attempt, or simply to be held in order to show support with a warm touch. It transforms into fingers that reach into pocket or purse for money or type those messages of support. That financial support may seem never-ending when offspring are young and rapidly growing. How can a child grow out of shoes so very quickly, or trousers go from full length to half-mast in a matter of weeks! Then there are university expenses and the bank of mum and dad continues on and on, seemingly even more so at present.

WHAT OF EMOTIONS?

My parents happily provided the emotional wind under my wings. In the post-war years, they wanted me to have a happy childhood, they wanted me to have a secure childhood free from the horror of the years through which they had just lived. They provided the wind beneath my wings by enabling me to feel securely attached to them at this time. They did not smother me. Rather, once I had the skills, and whilst keeping a watchful eye from the nest of home, they encouraged me to spread my wings and fly solo.

Emotionally I was prepared as I had an example of a loving, caring, supportive relationship and how it functions. I was listened to, but very much allowed to make my own mistakes, take responsibility for them and sort things out for myself, by myself. As a parent, I know that this isn’t easy – so much easier to run with the proverbial plasters and make things better, but then the child does not develop the self-resilience to see them through life.

Sadly, I have worked with clients who, as adults, continue to rely on their parents for this emotional support, even when they are in a relationship or married. Once there is a partner hopefully offering such succour, parents should be able to be in the position of taking a back seat for the majority of time.  However, some continue to show signs of the presence of a too long retained set of apron strings. The childish need for emotional support from a parent has continued past the point of being healthy for the now adult-child; rather it is now an unhealthy part of the current relationship. Is the partner content that they are a secondary turn-to for an occasional breeze or when the going is smooth and no additional support is needed? This applies not only to the emotional support, and is bound to put a strain on the relationships involved. That poor old parent could well be exhausted from all of the huffing and puffing to provide that wind; at a time when they were expecting to be able to enjoy time for themselves as a couple. Having said that, there will always be exceptions when a parent’s priority has to be with their adult offspring who is unable to function adequately without that continuing support.

Practically, I consider that I was well prepared when younger through gentle under-wing support. My mum taught me to cook and bake by her side from a very early age. Something that I mirrored with my own family.  I needed this skill as Mum suffered badly with migraines, so I was able to step in and cook for my father and grandfather from a very early age, cooking my first Christmas meal at the age of eleven. My Dad taught me about, and passed on his love of, gardening and basic DIY. I still take pleasure in the lily of the valley and snowdrops transplanted from his garden to mine when he died.

Schooling when I was growing up included the practical skills too – cookery, knitting, sewing, plug changing and basic home tasks. That was all at primary school, with teachers including this besides the 3R’s and standard subjects in the curriculum. Guess health and safety these days would have something to say about the plugs. But hey, I can remember when a thermometer in class broke and I played for ages with a blob or mercury - rolling it around on the top of my desk!

WHAT OF FINANCES?

Financially, the wind beneath my maturing wings saw me provided for by way of a good diet of traditionally non-expensive northern fare – ok, it did include cow heel stew and tripe and onions, but you know what? I loved them, and the ability to cook a meal from scratch, especially when the purse and the cupboard have been empty has served me well. I had a dress for winter and a couple for summer as they were cheaper. School uniform was always bought for me to grow in to though I admit to cringing when I look back at old photographs of a holiday in Kent, with me wearing my school blazer! It was seemingly fine then, but the thought of my granddaughters accepting that is probably the reason for my cringing.

I was taught to save and to save up for something that I wanted. This is probably why I lived with an orange bathroom for years in my current home. Each time I had almost saved enough to get rid of it, along came another need for that particular piggy bank to be broken into. I got there eventually and probably appreciated it even more because of the wait. I am not a great believer in the see it, want it, get it way of being, but then I am getting old and probably considered to be old fashioned. I guess, having been taught the value of things I have not lusted after new cars, designer bags, whatever. Like me, my car is getting on in years, but continues to work well. If that ceases to be the case, then out with the piggy bank again.

DIRECTION TWO

As those who know me will be well aware, and blog readers may have picked up, I was married to a pilot for many years, until, that is, his wings led him in the direction of someone else. I had supported him, provided the wind beneath his wings by taking on the roles of anything to do with home and sons, leaving him free to focus on his flying. Can I just say that this role taking was not an actively made choice, rather, if I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t have been done. I was largely responsible for keeping that wind circulating beneath the family’s wings. I put into use those skills that I had learnt many years earlier to do the decorating, DIY, gardening. Add in ferrying sons hither and thither, supporting them in cubs and hobbies, cooking, cleaning – oh and working. Life was a round of constant provision of support, in common with so many others. I didn’t once complain when his flying, his job, meant house move after house move. We had to do our own packing and unpacking for each of these, bar one. Or rather, I had to do it. He declared he was hopeless at it and set out to prove a point by walking around the boxes currently being worked on with a lamp in his hand. His aim seemingly being to find a space just the right shape and size for said lamp. Surprise, surprise, there wasn’t one, so the lamp was returned whence it had cometh and he disappeared leaving me to get on with the job. Chocolate fireguards leap to mind, though very cunning to choose something as awkward as a lamp to prove his point and give an escape route.

Those wings became extra heavy for me when he also began display flying with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. He received no time off in lieu, but he didn’t mind this as he was flying and display flying at that. He really must have loved being able to get to fly a spitfire and a hurricane – and d’you know what – I still can’t recognise which is which.  Guess I was the provider of a heck of a lot of wind for quite some time.

I became a shining example of how NOT to provide that wind. I didn’t question, maybe I should have complained a bit? But no, I simply ‘did’, because I loved my husband and because I wanted my sons to have a happy childhood. However, had I but realised it, this was aiding and abetting in throwing things out of kilter. Whilst I was in overalls, grimy from work and knackered from being the provider of the supporting wind, someone else was in his washed and ironed (yes, of course done by me) uniform getting the glory as in the song in the introduction.

As provider of wind under several sets of wings, I didn’t have much time or energy left to do much flying myself. When I actually did set off on a solo flight to work on my postgrad teaching course, I had to do all of the flapping myself. But you know, they do say that if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger. As I am still around to tell the tale some thirty odd years later, I can only assume this to be so.

Having said that, it hasn’t stopped me being the first to offer any under-wing support to those who need it – but hopefully those who would also appreciate it, rather than take it for granted, and be willing to offer the odd blow in my direction if the need arises.

BE LIKE THE GEESE

Have you ever watched geese or swans making their way across the sky? They often over-fly my garden to get to and from nearby ponds, and the larger flashes – ie the expanses of water created by land subsidence due to the mining of salt.

They will either fly in a ‘v’ shaped, or a slanted line astern, formation. They have a great notion of fairness, of division of labour and support for one another. The leader is the one doing the hardest work, breaking through the air, working hard to flap those wings whilst presumably keeping a beady eye on the track they are taking. The rest are evenly spaced out behind, at a distance that is apparently far from random. After a while, this leader will drop to the back of the formation, and the next bird will take its turn. Research reported in a National Geographic article explains that yes, the lead bird does do the hardest work. However, more importantly, it also begins the process of air movement that causes lift under the wings of the birds back along the line, making life for them in flight easier. By rotation of the leader, every bird gets its time of putting in more effort and then having an easier time of things. The load is shared fairly and evenly – they are the wind below each other’s wings. Team work par excellence. To finish, a link through to Bette as mentioned in the intro. 

 

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