Just one month ago, Flaco the owl was sprung from New York’s Central Park Zoo. Until then the Eurasian Eagle Owl had lived a very safe, sleepy life in, basically, a cozy 1BR apt w/ park vu. He had a tree to perch in, some rocks to, I don’t know, scratch? Bang his bored head against? And for sustenance he received the owl equivalent of Grub Hub — food delivered to him. Perhaps actual grubs.
But when his mesh enclosure was snipped open by some miscreant on Feb. 2 (and I swear it wasn’t me), suddenly that spoon-fed, molly-coddled creature rose to the occasion. Literally. He flew out into the city that never sleeps — which, when you think about it, is probably perfect for an owl. But an overprotected one?
Could he figure out how to fly further than 15 feet in each direction? Stay safe? Find food?
Readers: He has done all that and more. He is king of the forest — and catnip to columnists (including, obviously, me). As one such NY Times piece reports, it turns out all Flaco really needed was a little trust and a little freedom. Neither were offered by the zoo, but when he got them, he became a new bird. Curious, capable, captivating.
The parallels to young people are so painfully obvious, all I can say is: In my line or work I have seen this time and again. Parents, terrified to let their kids go, are given a little push and — poof! They are flabbergasted and fulfilled to see how much their kids are capable of. Far from feeling like useless castoffs, the parents are elated: “I had no idea my son was so capable!” “If I’d known how much she could do, I’d have let her start a lot sooner.” “He seems so much more confident — and so am I!”
PARENTS, SCHOOLS: RAISE A FLOCK OF FALCO KIDS!
Want to feel that same heady mixture of relief, joy, and amazement? Download the Let Grow Independence Kit. It’s got some simple suggestions for how to start letting go. Or, better still, ask your child’s school or teacher to assign The Let Grow Project, where students K-12 get the homework assignment, “Go home and do something new, on your own, without your parents.” When a bunch of kids ALL start doing new stuff on their own, things (like anxiety!) change fast and for the better. The kids compare notes, their parents do the same, and voila: The norms switch from over-protective to overwhelmed with pride and excitement.
Want a school full of Flacos (without the regurgitated mouse skeletons)? Get started! Download The Let Grow Project implementation guide and watch those fledgling kids fly!