Learning to fly / by Christina Rosalie

We make paper airplanes. A fleet of them tossed into space after dinner, twirling, looping, landing on the hardwood, on the couch cushions, on the edges of ledges and windowsills. Our hearts on our sleeves, laughter filling the living room, as the cold autumn night crowds in around at the windows and Sprout chases after each one, newly crawling, hands going fwap, fwap, fwap across the floor. This is my life, I think. These boys, these moments. What does it matter that I’ve missed a deadline I wanted to meet, or that tiredness makes me stupid some mornings? Everything that really matters is in this room tonight. “Here, I’ll show you how fold one,” I say to Bean, not really believing that he’ll be able to follow my lead, and remembering second graders I’ve taught who have burst into tears with frustration, not able to follow the same sequence of folds.

“Really?” he grins. Then he sits on the floor with a stack of paper, his legs folded behind him on the floor like a little frog.

He watches intently, copying every fold.

First a rectangle, then the nose folded in to make opposing triangles, then the whole thing in half, then the wings folded down. Symmetry and sequence matter now. He breath is shallow, intent.

“Let me try it again,” he says after we toss our new planes high and watch them land. Sprout squeals in delight. A candle still flickers on the dinner table. Night is here, making the window glass into mirrors that catch our grins.

I watch him as he makes another, all himself. The entire sequence of steps folded from memory, after only being shown twice. And his plane flies beautifully. It lifts improbably, air pushing up under the flimsy paper and carrying it up to the ceiling before it swoops down, twirling in arbitrary circles before landing at his feet.

His grin is bigger than the room.

My grin is bigger than the room.


This boy, this beautiful boy of mine, teaches me so much. He challenges me at every turn to grow, to become more organized, more intentional, more prepared. He is my mirror, revealing the fragile and haphazard parts of my being that dangle and drag like dropped stitches. Where I am weakest, this is where parenting him forces me to grow the most.

I can’t coast, parenting him. He never gives me the chance to sit back on my laurels and get comfy. He questions everything. He is always pushing me to the edge of my comfort zone. He’s a kid who seems porous to me: the entire environment saturates his little being. He soaks everything up. Watches everything. Asks about everything.

He sees a thing once, and remembers it, classifying it with other similar things: the makes of cars, the inner workings of tractors, street signs, logos, maps. He has a particular obsession with learning new words and he insists on using them again and again until they blend into his daily vocabulary. Words like scenery and astounding, and investigate.

He is never content with the simple answer. He is always full force, full throttle, determined. He is fragile. He is allergic (to dust, grass, pollen, pets.) He is picky. He is persistent. He is easily overwhelmed by sensory stimulation. He exhausts me.

And I’m starting to get it: this boy of mine might be one of the most profound teacher’s I’ll ever know.