Back to School, Boundaries, and the Search for Balance

Flying Free

“The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom.”

–final stanza of Maya Angelou’s poem, “Caged Bird


A few months ago, my boys and I agreed to take care of a friend’s birds while she was away from Prague this summer. Since my 10-year-old son also has a sweet parakeet, newly acquired with his allowance and doused with doting and love, we all thought we knew what to expect. But within the first day, we knew we were wrong. The two visiting parakeets were the bird form of Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows with their tempestuous relationship in the Honeymooners. The male ignores the female, and, in turn, she picks—or pecks—on him endlessly. The poor blue male is now bald on his head and lame on his foot, and his tail feathers are all askew. There is not much left of the male from all of the female’s pecking.

It reminds me of a human situation that happens so often, don’t you think? Spouse to spouse, parent to child, child to parent – the pecking happens. The result becomes a miserable cage.

I have long admired American poet Maya Angelou, and especially love her poem, excerpted above and below, with the famous line “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

“A free bird leaps on the back Of the wind and floats downstream Till the current ends and dips his wing In the orange sun’s rays And dares to claim the sky.”

(-first stanza, “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou)

Don’t we all want to be like the free bird Ms. Angelou describes? And help our children to find that spirit, to dare to claim the sky?


This time of year, parents around the globe ready our kids to head back to school. My sons, now ages 12, 10, and 8, begin a new school year next week. As we gear up and prepare for the onslaught of activities and choices to be made, it is hard to know what choices to make—which activities are important for our children, and what becomes too much. In this over-programmed world, it’s easy to book up every free minute and create a whirlwind life. But though the intention may be to help our kids soar and fly free, maybe the result becomes a cage. Or we all become overwhelmed, and begin to peck and pick at the others closest to us. There is such a fine line to finding balance, I think …

Love takes many forms, with kids in school. Sometimes it means we let our kids say yes to Band and an ever-squealing saxophone. Sometimes it means we let our kids say no and pursue what they really want to do. And sometimes it means we provide that safe place—a shoulder, a lap, an ear, a smile, a hug, a ride, or any simultaneous combination of the above. For I’m convinced, it’s not the activities or any right combination of what we program for their days that makes them exceptional people. But love is the wind that helps us, and our children, to soar.

What do you think? How do you find balance for your family? Do you agree that love is the springboard for our kids to reach the sky, not the perfect schedule of activities?

Published by Jennifer Lyn Art

About Jennifer Writer Author Photographer Artist Corporate Marketer Happy Wife & Mom World Traveler Grateful.

2 thoughts on “Back to School, Boundaries, and the Search for Balance

  1. I absolutely agree, Jennifer. By giving them a strong foundation and unconditional love, our children’s possibilities are endless. The power of a family’s love is an amazing thing. Love this post. I’m going to go kiss my kids in their sleep now. 😉

    1. Thanks, Hallie!

      I also saw this article today: NYTimes: Family Happiness and the Overbooked Child | It’s an excellent article, kind of along the same lines, for parents on kids’ activities.

      Keep on hugging those sweet kids! -Jennifer

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