Monday, July 5, 2010

Sometimes Watching Is the Hardest Part

I was on my deck early one morning, around 7 a.m. when I saw 3 adult robins and a baby robin in the very back of my back yard. The baby robin was hopping along in the grass and two of the adult robins were "escorting" him.  The third robin was standing about a third of the way up my back yard, looking around as if he were watching for any potential danger to the little one.

I realized after just a few seconds that this baby was being taught "how to leave the nest" by the adults. He could not yet fly. He could only hop. After some researching, I understood what was going on. You see, when baby robins first leave the nest, they hop to begin with for several days in order to become stronger so they will eventually  have enough strength to fly. This process can take several days. Makes sense I guess. I'm sure those little guys can't go straight from sitting in a nest to flying.

This, as you can imagine, is a very dangerous time for baby birds. It's during this time that they are so vulnerable to a number of different predators including my 2 cats, Bubba and Hershey. When I saw the young one hopping around in the back yard, I actually brought my cats inside for a while until I felt that the baby was hidden well enough that it wouldn't be easily noticed by my cats.

I watched this little bird off and on for the entire day. I could hear his little chirp and would see him hop under the row of huge Leland Cypress that we have across our back yard, otherwise known as the Smith Bird Condos. They're tall and wide and a terrific home for a lot of birds.

After being under the huge trees for just a bit, he would then hop out and chirp loudly for long periods of time as if to say, "Here I am! Can't you see me? Come feed me! NOW!" He did not appear to be a  happy little fellow to say the least.

At times, I would see one or two adult robins with him, but for the majority of the time, especially as the day continued on, he would be alone in the big back yard by himself.  I was afraid for him. I worried that "something" might try to harm him and that his parents wouldn't be able to get to him quickly enough. During the course of the day, I saw one of the adults fly over and land right behind him, hop over him, then sort of flutter a little distance away from him. The adult robin then turned back, looked at the little one and chirped as if to say, "That's how you do it. Now it's your turn." But the little bird would just sit, and chirp, then hop some more.  It was hard to watch. I knew this step in the growth process was necessary for him to get to the next stage but it was still difficult to watch.  Maybe it was just the "mother thing" in me.  I wanted so badly to go out there and help that baby bird.  But, the only thing I could do was to make sure my cats stayed away. That was it.

As the evening drew closer, the baby bird began to gain some courage.  He would hop out a little bit farther from underneath the Leyland Cypress.  I saw him resting about 1/4 of the way up my back yard as the sun faded. The adult robins who were watching from a distance were not comfortable with his being so far from safety. When he would step outside of his safety zone, two or three of them would come flying in to coax him back to where they knew he needed to be to stay safe.  They would land beside him, the two of them, and escort him again back to safe territory.  It was really one of the neatest things to watch.   He was being taught what he needed to do by those who knew how to care for him best. The one thing they could not do for  him was fly. That was something he had to do on his very own.

I'm sure you know where I'm going with this. Some of my dear friends will have children "leaving the nest", going off to college or moving out of the house, for the first time in the next few weeks.  From one who has experienced it a few times, I can say that watching them leave the nest can be a very difficult thing to watch. Your role of being an active, engaged parent in the daily life of this child that you love so much will change. Don't misunderstand me. There will still be opportunities to parent but they will, more often than not, be from a distance. They will be from the standpoint of giving advice, not specifically telling them what to do. After 18 or 19 years of this child being taught, it is now his time to take what he has learned and apply it. Now is his time to fly.

But just as that young bird struggled when he was learning to fly, most all kids leaving the nest will probably struggle too. Growth and maturity doesn't happen overnight.  It takes time. When your role as a parent has been filled the way God intended, you can have confidence in the fact that you've taught them what they need to successfully, over time, step outside of your safety net and fly.  Yes, watching at this stage of parenting is probably the hardest phase of parenting that you'll experience, but when that child finally takes flight and soars, the joy that comes with it is immense.


Lori said...

Yes. Just got back last night from taking our youngest to college. My heart is full. Thank you for this.

Bev Smith, aka Mrs. Bev said...

Lori...You're very welcome. :)

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