The babies have left the nest, and I didn’t even see them leave, which makes me sad. And to add to the sadness, I don’t even recognize them any more. My baby robins, not my kids. And yes, I call them “my” baby robins because even though it was just a step stool pushed up to the door and a whole lot of observing while trying to stay hidden from a mother who was scared to death of me, for some reason, I feel like I’ve got some skin in the game and can claim some sort of accolade in their entrance into the world, if only for providing the Christmas wreath for the foundation of their nest.
My five baby robins were just days from their first flight, I’m just sure of it, as I saw them begin to flutter their wings while their mama shouted directions from a near by tree. How do I know that’s what she was doing? I don’t. I really have no idea. She could have been yelling at them to tidy up that pig’s sty of a nest or just fly already and start pitching in on the food gathering, but my instincts tell me otherwise. And I missed it. All that time peering into the nest, while watching them get bigger and stronger and begin to open and flutter their tiny wings and I missed it. I missed their very first short flight to the dogwood tree just feet away. Did they all make it? Did they take turns or did they all leave en mass? Was the first one to exit a show off or did he/she help convince the others that it was a good thing and to go for it? I actually even thought about delaying my trip by a day but snapped myself out of that bad idea as my trip was to be with my daughter who was days away from having her first child! Still, as I watched that morning, and saw fluttering wings, I hesitated, but quickly came around when visions of explaining to my daughter why I missed the birth of my first grandchild because of a nest of 5 robins in my Christmas wreath who were oh so close to their aeronautical debut. Yeah. I made the right decision. Now here I am, 5 weeks later, with a bird poop encrusted back door window, an empty and now rather disheveled nest perched in a Christmas wreath that is still hanging on my door at the end of May. I’ve learned that robins will often return to the same nest more than once, which may be part of the reason I’m hesitating. But a Christmas wreath on my door all summer?
The baby birds, the leaving the nest, the instructing mama, all seem so relatable to my own role as a mother. Granted, I was a front and center witness to all 3 of my kid’s exit from the nest, and most likely their driver to take them away, but once they landed in their own nests, I had to rely on faith and good measure that they knew what they were doing and would stay on the side of safe and secure since I was no longer privy to their comings and goings. Metaphorically, for their first 18 years of life, I stood on a stool and watched all 3 of my kids through the window of life as they began to spread their wings, and I knew, as their mother, when to reel them back into the comfort of the nest and when to give them a little push. Again, there was a whole lot of relying on faith and good measure, which I got pretty good at through the years. However, that was tested when my middle child came home from college for the first time and questioned why he needed a curfew because in reality I had no idea what time he came home when he was away and why would it all of a sudden make any difference now? Well played, son, well played, but I got you on a technicality that we never addressed before…. my house, my rules, which really means, I won’t totally go to sleep until I hear the garage door go up and know that you’re home. The hold on tight, let go, grab again while trying to loosen your grip part of parenting is hard – on the hands, on the heart, but we persevere. And although it gets easier with time, it is always a challenge because we watched those babies hatch, grow wings, spread them and fly, and proud as we are as parents for those accomplishments, we still have that urge to call them back to the nest. Birds, babies… I’m grouping them all together on this one. With 3 kids, living in 3 different spots, all at least a good day’s drive away or more, I’ve learned to set aside my worries (well, most of them) and let go as much as I can while trusting them and the decisions they’re making. They are, after all, all adults. Still, I’m their mom and just a tad bit of worrying seems to stick, no matter what.
While out working in my yard today, I saw more than one robin and realized that it was possible that I’m no longer able to distinguish the adults from the children. I’m guessing they grow up that quickly. So when I saw that first robin today and a big smile came to my face thinking about the babies in the nest and how far they had all come, I had to stop and rethink the situation. That could have been the mom or the dad or for Pete’s sake, even the uncle or maybe, just maybe, it was one of my 5 baby birds, all grown up and doing exactly what nature intended.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the nest, I mean wreath, and if I’ll leave it on the door with hopes that I’ll get to do this all over again with another generation of robins, or if I’ll take may chances with a new wreath next Christmas ( and a new one would be in order as this one is not “clean up-able” enough for saving purposes, but a small price to pay for the enjoyment it provided).
So, baby birds who likely look like adult birds by now and baby kids of mine who are tall and shave and drive cars and are having babies of their own and hardly look like babies either, you remind me, always, about the cycle of letting go and trusting. My child who just had a baby a little over a month ago, will soon begin to understand this and more relevance may begin to come into play when it comes to baby birds and nests and hovering and protective mamas. At one point, it will begin to not only make sense, but become eerily familiar…the continuous and cyclical nature of life, both beautiful and difficult at the same time.
In the meantime, I’m enjoying the many robins in my yard and am pretending to know who they are, or at least the ones I watched so intently from the step stool in my laundry room. If I could get them to make eye contact with me, maybe, just maybe, they’d recognize my face as the one that peered down on their nest, several times a day, through the window of my laundry room door, and whispered words of encouragement and bursts of “you can do it” when I saw the first wings begin to flutter and spread. This. This amazing miracle of nature and life, I have witnessed so often and whether with baby birds or my own children, it never, ever, gets old.
Yeah, the wreath is staying. I want them to remember where they came from.