We wait for them to return each spring and wonder, did they manage to make the trip south with the rest of their family? And will the ones who nested in the water hazard just beyond our window be back again this year? When will we hear them and look up to see them gliding in to land?

They do return, and after they nest they are jealous of their property and chase away any invaders. We don’t see much of them for a while, but when the goslings hatch we see them in formation in the water or with mom and dad watching over them as they sit in family groupings in the rough near the water hazard.

A couple of years ago we watched excitedly as they taught their young to fly. First on the water, a parent in front running and flapping her wings, the young behind doing the same and a parent behind encouraging the process. The next day we watched as the lessons moved off the water and onto the grass and became a bit more difficult. Shortly after we also watched as they took their maiden flights.

I thought about this as I saw a number of pictures on Facebook of little girls and boys dressed in their finest for the first day of “learning to fly” at school. And I thought of the parents who had modeled and encouraged, and of the many years they will continue to do so.

I also thought about this as my grandkids started school this fall. All eight of them will be in school: three in university, two of them finishing high school, one in grade 10, one in grade 9 and the youngest in grade 5. Some will be conquering evil math, a couple of them will be competing in university athletics and all of them will be earning their wings to help them fly in the adult world.

The flying bit doesn’t happen as quickly in human families as it does in goose families, but it is an even more beautiful process to watch. Sometimes they learn in formation, sometimes they fly solo, but always they need people modeling and encouraging.