A few weeks ago, I opened my front door to find a baby bird standing on my porch, his big, blinking eyes just staring up at me.
|Earl enjoying "The Office"|
I worried about Earl all night. When I woke up the next morning, I went downstairs (where he was safely away from our dog and cat), wondering if he would still be alive. Much to my relief, he seemed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and hopped right on my finger when I opened the cage door.
I sat there with Earl for a while, letting him perch on my shoulder and occasionally make feeble attempts to fly. I knew I had to put him back outside in the hopes that either mom would come by to get him or he would figure out the flying thing on his own.
Suddenly, the squawking was met with a response – several, in fact. After about 30 minutes, I looked out and, though I could still hear Earl, he was no longer on the porch. I went outside and looked up in the tree in my yard and there he sat, in a nest, squawking away. Baby bird could fly – at least a little! Relieved but a little sad, I considered that my time with Earl, though short and sweet, was over.
But I knew I couldn’t do that, as much as I wanted to. I knew he didn’t belong with me, and he didn’t belong in a cage. As much as I worried about him, it was time for him to figure out how to fly and explore the big, bad world out there all on his own.
I raised my hand up to the tree and he hopped onto one of the branches. Before I knew it, he was clumsily fluttering higher and higher, squawking all the way.
This may seem like a silly story about a bird named Earl. But it struck me how this one day kind of sums up being a mom. When you first see your kid and his big, blinking eyes, all you want to do is protect him – forever. You feed him and nurture him and find out everything you can about caring for him. Then one day, you realize you have to let him go – and it’s excruciating. You wonder if he’s ready. You wonder if anyone will be there to help him along the way. You wonder if you did enough to prepare him for the real world. You’re not sure it’s time, even if he thinks it’s time. He can barely fly – how will he survive? But it’s not really up to you.
So you let him go. He might leave the nest on his own. He might fall out and need a little extra help from someone else. He may come back, like Earl did, unsure of what to do next and wanting for some additional comfort from “mom.” And as much as you want to take him in again and protect him from the dangers of the big, bad world, you know you can’t. Baby bird has to learn to fly – and whether he figures it out or not is no longer up to you.
I had an amazing friend who passed away in 2018 after an incredibly courageous fight with breast cancer. Her favorite movie was “The Shawshank Redemption”. When Earl flew away for the last time, I thought of her favorite quote and how true it is right now in my momma heart:
“I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more gray and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.”
Miss you, Earl, and both my baby birds. It brought me great joy to help you learn to fly, but now it's up to you to soar.