Paper Airplanes

Luke and I have spent many, many hours in doctors’ offices and waiting rooms over the years while Jonah receives his various treatments for his speech disorder, Autism, and Epilepsy.

I have learned from all those endless hours, that time is only wasted if you make it so.

Luke and I have figured out how to scan a room very quickly and know who wants to play and chat right away. If the room is empty, sometimes we just read together and cuddle…but if the weather is nice, we are outside on an adventure. Luke (with his giant personality) will famously walk into a room full of kids, put his hands on his hips and say: “Hey kids, want to play?”

We met a wonderful mom and her daughter this past summer in one of those waiting rooms while Jonah was in speech therapy. Like most of the mothers that I meet during these times, they want to discuss treatments, how their children are coping, life skills, how Autism has affected their lives and so on. This mother and I connected immediately. Her daughter was Jonah’s age, so she took charge and led Luke around. After the same weekly appointments times, we ended up spending most of our Tuesday and Thursday summer afternoons with them. The kids would have piles of paper and markers and pens surrounding them while they chattered away with each other.

One day, the daughter asked the mother to make her a paper airplane. I had never made one for either of my boys, so Luke was pretty excited about flying a plane and decorating the paper.

Once they got started, I noticed Luke struggling to get his to fly. I immediately stood up and went over to him to help him when the mother stopped me, and said gently, “Let him figure it out.”

And I did.

And it pained me, just a tiny bit, to stand there and watch him struggle. But I did, and I will always be thankful for that beautiful reminder.

Paper Airplanes are KIND OF A BIG DEAL around here. I hope you enjoy the poem. Happy flying, my friends!

Paper Airplanes

And so

Luke

comes running up to me and

shouts:

“Mommy, let’s make some paper airplanes!”

as he shoves a stack of lined paper

–ripped from his brother’s notebook–

into my hands

and smiles.

And I remember–

his brother never asked for

a paper airplane.

His brother never asked

for anything.

And I feel like I’ve failed again.

Maybe I should have made one even though he didn’t ask for one?

That pause of sadness

–reminds me–

that I sometimes forget

that playing looks different for everyone.

Beyond what I can teach them,

playing their own way is what makes them…

them.

“Let’s make a team!” He pleads.

“Even Jonah can have one!”

And just like that,

I’m brought back in

and I take the stack,

and I begin to work.

“Of course, I’ll make some for you both.” I say.

“Don’t forget the tape!” He cries.

We learned a while ago

tape makes the paper planes go

faster and last longer.

Sometimes,

it helps to have

reinforcements.

So I grab the paper and tape

and begin to make

an entire army of planes.

His brother senses

our excitement

stops playing on his tablet

and joins us.

Both boys are standing very close to me now,

each waiting with anticipation and the promise of how–

spectacular their flight will be.

One wonders aloud how high his will go,

the other just waits while humming

patiently

and knowing

the planes take time,

but will be ready soon–

mommy likes to make them

perfect…

just like them.

And I stop for a moment

to look at their newness and

inhale their goodness.

The smell of them still

makes me think:

they are just babies,

even though one is 3 and one is 7.

So I kiss their foreheads,

hand them each a few planes

and wish them luck–

as I tuck one extra one

to the side

just for me.

Now no one ever said,

flying would be easy.

As I watch them struggle at first

I remember:

let them struggle…

it’s the hardest reminder

for me as a mother.

“Keep trying!” I tell them.

Just for a little bit longer, I think.

And they will see–

that sometimes it takes practice

to become what you want to be.

Soon they are off and flying

and I’m still

deciding:

Should I quick finish

the dishes

while they are happily playing

or should I join them?

But their squeals of delight

wake me up

from thinking of

everything that needs to get done.

I sigh.

It never really was a choice, was it?

I smile.

I know this is much more fun.

I grab my paper plane

and I show them how it’s done.

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