A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Ground Effect

June 21st, 2012

Have you ever seen a bird flying low across the water? Have you noticed that when they do, they aren’t flapping their wings?

It’s called “ground effect”. When the bird is within a wingspan of the water’s surface, the air is compressed between the bird’s wing and the water. This creates a natural “lift”. As the bird glides this lift allows it to fly while rarely flapping its wings.

Ground effect is also a reality of airplane flight. When the pilot points the Boeing 737-300 down the runway and accelerates to take off, she will begin to feel the ground effect lift when the plane hits about 70 miles per hour. Yet since the appropriate lift off speed (depending on load weight) is between 150 and 180 miles per hour, the pilot must hold the plane down when ground effect begins, literally forcing it to keep its wheels on the runway. To allow lift at 70 miles per hour, a speed inadequate for take off, the plane would crash.

Simply put, the pilot doesn’t allow the plane to lift when it wants to. It allows it to lift when it’s safe to take off without crashing.

I’m a Dad of twin daughters who are now “tweeners”; that time between childhood and the teenage years. It’s an awkward stage for them. One minute they’re sitting on my lap asking me to watch Bugs Bunny cartoons with them and the next they’re performing a lightening fast choreographed dance while rattling off the lyrics to some song I’ve never heard. One minute they are showing extraordinary kindness and sensitivity to those around them and the next they’re pulling each other’s hair. Even as I write this I’m refereeing one of their swimming pool squabbles.

It’s an awkward stage for me, too. I work hard at being a Dad. I never think I’m parenting well enough, but overall felt I had managed the first ten years with a reasonable degree of success. When they turned 11, it’s like someone flipped a switch. I feel clueless much of the time. I confess I’m struggling with the balance between letting them stretch their wings and keeping them grounded. Yes, I want them to become strong independent humans who take on the world. I’d also like them to be humans who know how to pick up a towel, take out the trash and not be the people their future college roommates complain about as being a nightmare to live with.

The ground effect creates no small amount of confusion in the parent/child relationship. The other day I asked Emma, “You and me. Are we ok? Are we good?” She said, “Yeah. Except that you’re a party pooper once in awhile, we’re great.”

To my daughters, I’m a sometimes party pooper. To me, parenting them in this stage is like herding cats. At the end of the day, we all know we love each other. It’s exhausting. But at the end of the day, we get there.

It’s the ground effect. They’re growing up. They’re pointed down the runway toward adulthood. They’re picking up speed. They’re starting to feel the lift of independence.

I’m holding them down. Not to stop them. But to help them take off successfully without crashing.

The ground effect makes them think they can fly.

They can’t.


But not yet.

Here’s to successful take offs.

Oh, and keep your seat belts fastened until the Captain turns off the sign.

We’re expecting a bumpy flight.

“Train up a child in the way they should go (literally: “according to their bent”) and when they are old, they will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6


Todd A. Thompson – ASliceOfLifeToGo.com