Father, Husband

Leaving the birds in the nest

There’s an important joy corollary (joy-ollary?) to baby birds peeking out of the nest and then them coming back into the nest to snuggle. It’s being able to leave them in the nest.

When our kids are young and first mobile, we spend most of our time keeping an eye on them, because they don’t know enough about the world to take care of themselves. Every stray Lego, every staircase, every pullable tablecloth is a hazard that they can discover through experience or through coaching — and we’d prefer to coach them than to take them to the emergency room.

As they grow older and more self-sufficient, we struggle with the helicoptering. Can we leave them at home for 5 minutes for a run to the pharmacy? Can we give them time on the Internet without supervising every video and website? Can we trust them to be home alone all evening? The ponderables pile higher and higher. The answers require trying and holding our breath.

But as parents’ kids pass hurdle after hurdle, the parents discover new joys. The joys of going out on a date night. Of not puzzling over the logistics of which parent will be Home In Time. Of realizing that Finding a Competent and Available Babysitter has been downgraded from a major crisis to No Longer a Thing to Worry About. It’s the joy of reclaimed time for ourselves. Being able to leave the birds in the nest while we go grab a worm for a few hours is a joy unto itself.

 

Father, Son

Back to the nest again

If there’s joy in your baby bird peeking out of the nest, then there’s even more joy in the homecoming when they look back inwards and snuggle back in.

When they do, it can be a trickle of information, or a flood. The chorus might be “Yeah,” “Uh-huh,” and “I guess.” Or it might be a blow by blow description of whoever was there, whatever they learned, and the activities they took part in. Or both, depending on the subject.

It’s also pure improv time for parents. Do you need to be encouraging and supportive? Angry on their behalf? Reassuring and matter-of-fact to counter disappointment? Eager and animated to share in their excitement? Calm and logical to help them process? None of it’s really written down in our non-existent Parenting Handbook, so we turn the empathy dial up to 11 and hang on for the ride. And try to remember what we craved at that age when we looked to our parents for help.

Most of our answers are right, anyways, so the pressure to parent is entirely self-imposed. And it’s all swept away in the joy of the return home – a special joy that’s magnified by its rarity.