The Rockwood Files: The wind beneath my tiny wings

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Like millions of other people, my life changed when I got an iPhone three years ago. It made me more accessible – which isn’t always a good thing. It gave me the ability to read news stories while waiting in drive-thru lanes, which is convenient. And, most importantly, it gave me wings – tiny wings.

“Tiny Wings” is a game in the iTunes app store. It’s not as popular as those pig-smashing Angry Birds, but it’s my personal favorite – my guilty pleasure when I should be doing something more productive. It has a hold on me, in part, because it’s symbolic of everyday life.

In the game “Tiny Wings”, a little cartoon bird is asleep on her nest on a hillside. When the sun comes up, she slides on her belly down hills and into valleys. If she slides quickly and builds up speed, she will swoop up the side of the next hill and take flight – soaring over hills and valleys ahead of her – until gravity brings her down again. Her wings are too tiny to keep her flying, so she must dive through the valleys, ramp up the hillsides and then flutter as long as she can.

If you – the bird – time your descent just right, you’ll slide perfectly through the valleys and soar over the hills, picking up gold coins along the way. Occasionally, you’ll even pick up a blue “speed coin” which makes you fly faster, farther and higher than normal. You fly from one island to the next, where the landscape and the steepness of the hills change from day-to-day and place to place. You never quite know what to expect. If you’re really on your game, you’ll fly so well that you’ll touch the clouds and pick up even more points.

If your timing is off, however, your little bird will clunk awkwardly against the steep hillside, flapping her tiny wings as she struggles to gain speed. As you travel from one island to the next, daylight begins to fade. So your mission is to fly as fast and as far as you can before the sun sets. Simple as that.

When the sun sets, nothing dire happens to the little bird. She just closes her eyes and falls asleep. When she flies well and meets the game’s objectives, she’s rewarded with fancier nests and higher points. If she doesn’t? Well, then she just goes to sleep. But at least she lives to fly another day.

There are days when I feel just like that little bird. I wake up and begin the day, swooping from one activity to the next. Some days everything goes my way. Other days I hit all the red lights, the dog gets sick, work goes badly, an unexpected bill shows up, the kids argue, and everything feels like an uphill fight. The day ends and I haven’t made much progress and have no idea if tomorrow will be a smoother ride.

But when the sun comes up, I start all over again. We all do. Maybe we’re a lot like that optimistic little bird. Perhaps this will be the day we swoop through the valleys with ease. Maybe this is the day we’ll go higher, faster and farther than ever before.

Or maybe we do it because we’re designed for the journey. Just like birds are created to fly, people are designed to climb tough hills, make it through emotional valleys and – with enough positive momentum – soar into something wonderful. There’s no guarantee the ride will be easy. But even birds with tiny wings can learn to take flight.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.