Over the past few months we have had the honor of witnessing the birth of several birds in nests scattered outside our house.
About two weeks ago, there was an even greater thrill as we happened to be watching as three little birds prepared to leave the nest outside our bedroom window. We realized this was taking place as they began to take turns flapping their wings while jumping around the nest.
Then it got interesting. The largest of three walked to the edge and stood there. Teasing us with many “will he fly off now?” moments. Finally, he took the leap, and it was truly a leap, straight to the ground with a thud. The remaining two birds, a bit more hesitant, followed the example, and seemed to have the same failure as their larger sibling. From what we could see, none of the three succeeded in the art of flight, they all just fell to the hard earth. We were certain that this was the end, they had all failed flying and we would soon be in the bird burial business.
Even in the surety of their failure, we continued to watch, often having to run to windows in different bedrooms. We saw the squirrels coming closer as if they had been waiting for this moment. We also knew that there were other, more aggressive and larger, birds witnessing this embarrassment, or, should I say, opportunity, unfolding.
We, in our infinite wisdom, were sure that these little birds we had become intimately attached to, had not been ready to attempt flying and had met their doom.
As we continued to watch, however, we noticed their mom and dad. Neither was grieving or blaming the other. Instead, Dad was watching from the highest branch on a bush near the back fence, while mom was standing on the ground, strategically positioned between dad and the babies. As she stood there you could see her aggressive stance ready to attack the other opportunistic creatures. One at a time, mom escorted the tiny poor fliers to the bush by our back fence, their new home, where dad received and congratulated each one with the bird equivalent of a high five. It was not long before all three ‘not yet ready for flight’ birds were back with mom and dad and ready to continue their journey and their training….only now with more privacy, at least from the nosey Anthony family.
I have to be honest however, for the four humans watching, it was a pretty scary process. We gave up hope many times.
Later, as I thought through the experience, I remembered I had been awakened that morning to a very busy, and noisy, mom and dad. While I had grown accustom to the parents feeding the birds early each morning, this morning, the morning of the kids’ first attempt at flight, mom and dad seemed to be executing the feeding process with a special and intense urgency. The children were receiving an extra portion of breakfast with a veracity that, as to yet, had been unseen. Don’t be fooled, they had always enjoyed feeding time but nothing matching the intensity of this day. Mom and Dad knew the kids were going to need even more strength and power than ever before. The kids, for their part, were taking advantage of this preparatory process for an adventure that was far greater, and riskier, than anything the nest had ever offered over the course of their entire lives.
The preparation before, during, and even after, was calculated and amazingly exhausting and emotionally draining. At least it was to us humans, we were exhausted and spent even after having only experienced it from the spectator seats. As the five birds disappeared into the bush, we four humans headed to the kitchen to feed ourselves and to prepare for the semi-calculated and amazingly exhausting and emotionally draining adventure of our average day that lay ahead.
I cannot claim to have any real empathy with a mom and dad watching their children take a necessary and deadly leap in order to move ahead in life.
I can, however, say I watched my oldest child walk up the ramp to enter pre-K at Monroe elementary in August of 1998 and then, not too much later in the day, driving by the school to assure myself that he was not standing in the middle of the busy street (my wife later admitted to having done the same thing). I actually remember watching, and hating, the transition, as each of my five kids walked the same ramp over the next five years, and driving by later just to make sure they, too, were not standing in the middle of the street.
Then, this year I watched as that same son walked another ramp to receive his college diploma followed by a drive to Stillwater later in the week to enroll my fourth child in her first year of college. This means that we will be driving her to live in a place that is not our house in less than two months. In the meantime, we have taken our third child to the airport to fly away to a summer volunteering experience in Hawaii as number two headed to Colorado for her summer job. Finally, I have listened each day as our youngest has gotten himself out of bed very early each morning for cross country practice and lawn mowing.
I lay in bed wandering when we transitioned to a time when he no longer needed me to wake him up and take him to practice or work. I lay in bed wandering when he, our fifth little bird, approached the edge of the nest.
Maybe I do have a little bit of empathy for my dear mom and dad red bird friends that lived for a short time outside my bedroom window.
Oh… and we had to say goodbye to our Toyota van on May 4th due to the fact that we were rear ended by a school bus as I was driving Andrea to school (the irony has not gone unnoticed). Goodbye to the van that each of our children learned to drive in and where almost 300,000 miles of memories took place. It was tough to see it driven away on the tow truck.
Transitions are tough.