Paper Planes & Shadows

On Father’s Day I was trying to create a post on social media to wish all the Dad’s a “Happy Father’s Day.” But I wanted it to say more than that, not just to the Dad’s but to men as a whole. Because regardless of your status as a biological father, I believe that men (without discrediting the role of Mother’s and women) are such important figures in the modelling of the next generation: today’s children.

Anyway, as I struggled to find the right amount of words to articulate my thoughts for such a post, my thoughts went to seeking an image from the options provided. In looking for something masculine, I felt my options were very limited. I started out with cactus, but then decided ‘prickly’ is not very endearing for such a tribute. Skulls? Nope! Then I found it! Paper planes!!! That’s the one! Then came the analogy that follows, and my limited word count was now out of control. So I didn’t post anything on social media, but sent a few private messages instead.

So this post is for all the men in the world, regardless of your status as a biological father it is attributed to you for the man that you are. It is my attempt to encourage you in the influence you have over the children in your world, be they still young and small, or growing up tall.

While at work a few weeks back, in the midst of our current lockdown under the Covid19 restrictions, my bosses organised a paper plane flying contest. Everyone took a piece of plain A4 paper and began folding. At that moment, a distant memory flooded back. One from my childhood of my brothers having a book on the art of folding paper planes. But I could only remember the most basic 5 fold step paper plane. Then as I saw others revealing their various creations, more of those memories were triggered, but not enough for me to actually be able to implement those skills for myself.

For my creation I had used the full A4 piece of paper. But some of these other creations by my work colleagues had obviously been torn down to a smaller size, and then carefully folded with the aim for each plane to have the best aerodynamics to fly the furthest, in order to win the prize.

In thinking about all of this, I thought of how much this parallels with our influence over the children in our world. We all start with a child: a ‘blank piece of paper.’

Some of us have books on how to do it right, and some of us don’t. But if we are to equip and prepare our ‘paper planes’ for their best flight, then we need to equip and prepare ourselves to be able to do so. Because the knowing ‘how to’ isn’t necessarily built in to us, and maybe that’s in part due to it not being modelled well for us. But for whatever the reason we may be lacking in ‘know how’, the reality is that for the ‘paper planes’ in our world to have the best chance at being able to fly the furthest they can (as they set out to achieve all that they desire in life), all starts with us knowing the best way in which we can ‘fold’ them.

Just as some of my work colleagues knew how to tear and fold their pieces of paper to create a plane with maximum aerodynamic capacity, we need to know how to separate right and wrong, good and bad, (without tearing down) as we navigate the attitudes and behaviours of those under our care, and in our circle of influence. All this in the hope of establishing them to be model citizens that go on to live a life that contributes to society in such a way as to benefit themselves and those around them.

I’m reminded of an outing last week with Miss 7 for an hour of exercise. As we walked along, she was a few steps behind me, jumping this way and that along the fence line of houses, when she called out: “Hey wait! I’m trying to stay in the shadow, but there’s no more. Can you step this way so I can walk in your shadow?” And so I adjusted my position in order to move my shadow for her to be able to walk in it.

Then her statement echoed in my mind and I reflected on her words. Whether it’s in fun or in life itself, children are looking for shadows they can play, walk, and run in. So I’m challenged to ensure that my own shadow is one that is safe for her to follow in. And that my shadow, my reflection that she sees, will inspire and encourage her to be the best version of herself that she can aspire to. So that the influence I have in ‘folding’ her as she journeys life plays a positive part in setting her up to be a ‘paper plane’ with the right aerodynamics that can take her as far as she desires to go, in all that she desires to do.

As I’m typing this, there’s a song that comes to mind. A web search tells me it’s been recorded by more than 100 artists. And while I’ve only ever known it as a faith based song by such artists, I’ve now learnt that the music and lyrics were originally written by an Irish-Norwegian band: Secret Garden. It was first sung as a tribute to band member Rolf Lovland’s mother at her funeral. That song is titled: You raise me up.

My own interpreatation of the lyrics is this: that regardless of the role we have in the life of the children in our world, we are there to raise them up so that they can stand on mountains, whether that be in the form of attaining high achievements or conquering and overcoming difficult times. And that we would instill in them such resilience that they would learn to walk on stormy seas instead of drowning in the storms of life that may come. That they would know our shoulders are there for them to lean on when they need such support and strength. All the while raising them up (stretching their growth) to more than they can be. Because as the lyrics go: in their times of trouble and burden, they sit and wait in their silence (in the hope), that we would come and sit with them awhile.

So to all the men out there, whatever your Dad status, I congratulate you on being the men that you are, as you seek to establish the children in your world as ‘the most aerodynamic paper planes’ to fly into their best future.

Happy Father’s Day


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