From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

A Higher Plane

Children are not things to be molded, but are people to be unfolded.

Jess Lair

I found it today—the papier-mâché airplane Matt made so long ago. He was in kindergarten then. Now both Matt and Mike are grown, and I’ve been going through their outgrown treasures.

Memories flooded back as I looked at Matt’s plane. He’d spent many mornings in the basement by himself. First, he rolled newspaper to form the wings and body. He used half a roll of masking tape to fasten them together before he mixed the wallpaper paste, stirring so no lumps would spoil the finished plane. And he didn’t tear the newspaper strips; he cut them.

Matt waited three days for the plane to dry. He dribbled a little when he painted it, but the red and yellow mixed together made a nice camouflage-orange. We discussed the propeller, and he finally decided to cut blades from a margarine tub lid. Fastened in place, the propeller would “really spin.”

At last the airplane was finished, and he decided to take it for show-and-tell that very day.

As the morning progressed, his confidence in the idea faded. “Will the kids think it’s dumb?”

I tried to reassure him, but perhaps because he’d had to ask for it, he thought my praise was insincere. Shortly before lunch, he told me he didn’t think he’d show the plane after all, and he set it down on the dining room table.

It was still there when third-grader Mike came home for lunch and examined it. “Hey, Matt, this is neat.”

“Ya really think so?” asked Matt, who thought his older brother knew everything.


Nothing more was said about it while the boys ate their lunch, but when they left for school, I noticed Matt carrying his plane. Mike’s simple, unsolicited praise assured Matt the plane was really good and boosted his self-esteem.

Now, I realize my grown sons probably don’t even recall the papier-mâché plane, but I tuck it carefully back into the drawer to remind me of the power of praise.

Ellen Javernick

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