As The Robins Do

My dog knocked two baby robins out of their nest yesterday. Well, to be fair, I don’t know for a fact if she did because the nest is at a strange height under our deck (the deck is three to four feet off of the ground and the nest is built on a support beam) and if she had in fact knocked the birds out, I’m fairly certain the nest would have fallen, too. Perhaps they were already on the ground before my dog came outside. Thankfully they seem to be ok and landed in a soft layer of leaves that remain under our deck from last fall. I was outside with her when I realized what had happened and as I was chasing her away from the nest, I was overwhelmed by the amazingly loud noises coming from the robin parents. It was so incredibly loud that Eli covered his ears and yelled, “What’s going on?? Why are they making all that noise??” I carefully explained to him what had happened and we went inside a few minutes later after I confirmed that the babies were still alive and seemed to be uninjured. The mother and father birds were flying around the area like crazy and squawking back and forth between one another so it seemed appropriate for us to get out of their way and let them do what they needed to do.

I’m sitting on my couch now and I can see the area where the nest is fairly well. Thinking about the events of the few hours has made me consider how similar parenting as a human is to parenting as a robin---and perhaps some things we can learn from how robins are as parents. I’m serious! Yes, I really am writing about robin parenting techniques. And, yes, I promise I’ll make all of this eventually connect up.

One of my friends shared the following quote on Facebook: “Life is a balance of holding on and letting go,” and by what I observed yesterday and see in my own life, I find this to be so applicable to parenting. I’ve especially been thinking about how we handle challenge as a parent when our children are placed in a new situation. I’ll be honest. My inclination when my kids are placed in a new situation or are facing a new challenge is to protect, guide, be by their side. These are all wonderful things to do as a parent but there are different levels of doing this---I can protect (from afar). I can guide (from afar). I can be present but don’t need to be directly by their side. Obviously different situations warrant different reactions (bully on the playground---not going to watch that from afar) but I am learning how to suppress my desire to always hold on to my children and learning how to let go so that they can grow into compassionate, kind, and brave individuals. I am NOT an expert on this subject. I am constantly learning just like the rest of you and some of you are certainly farther down this path than I am. A major letting go step for me was when my oldest son started preschool this school year. It was tough. I managed to keep my tears mostly at bay until I dropped him off at his classroom but as soon as I left his room, I was a mess. I cried on and off until I realized I was only thirty minutes from picking him up and then I got really excited. Being a stay at home mom, I have been involved in his daily activities for four years. When someone else watched him for us, it was either at church for an hour or with family or close friends. Entrusting one of the most precious things in my life into the care of someone I didn’t know well and the knowledge that I wouldn’t know the details of his morning unless he shared it with me---it was hard. I’m sure there are more eloquent words but it was just hard. It eventually became easier and I really have appreciated the alone time with my youngest son. I love watching my oldest grow and learn new things and figuring out how to operate without me with him has been beneficial for both of us. Hard (there it is again…) but good.

What does this have to do with those robins? Well, when the parent birds realized their babies were possibly in danger (REAL danger), they fought for them. They made scary noises and flew around in threatening patterns. They made it obvious that what was happening was not at all acceptable to them and that we needed to back off and leave their little ones alone. As soon as we were out of the way, the parents immediately swooped in to assess the situation. Once they realized that, yes, the babies were out of the nest but still doing ok, they flew away again. About ten minutes later, one of them returned with food and this pattern continued for the rest of the day---check in, back off, fulfill needs, back off, check in, back off, fulfill needs, back off. Obviously I understand that humans and birds face different challenges but for me, these observations create some interesting perspective on finding that balance between holding on and letting go. I don’t think we will ever find the perfect balance but striving for that balance is essential to us being healthy parents and our children being healthy children. Honestly, the robins “let go” more than I ever will (know thyself, people) but I think it’s a great lesson in how when we “let go” in a healthy way, our love for our children is certainly not decreasing. If anything, our love for them is increasing because we are acknowledging that they have the power and ability to face new adventures, even if that scares us silly sometimes.

Oh, and I’m not saying you should use this as a parenting technique, but both robin parents definitely dive-bombed my dog when she went out to use the bathroom last night. They didn’t actually come in contact with her but it was slightly terrifying. Note to self: Robins are feistier than they appear. Now you can go and tell all your friends that you received your daily dose of parenting ideas from Michigan’s state bird!

Next blog topic: What skunks can teach us about parenting

Just kidding! :-) Until next time! Enjoy some adventures (and letting go) today!

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