half the nest

I watched her for nearly an hour as she flew back and forth to her home with a morsel of food in her beak. Each time she left the birdhouse, the little chicks chirped and chirped in desperation for their mama to return again. She landed each time on the ridge of the roof of the house, looking out for danger before she leaned into the small peep hole to pass along a tiny piece of nourishment that would sustain her baby chicks.

1 and 2 half the nest

I was interested in how the mama bird lets her babies fly away after sustaining their lives for that short period of time in their life.  So I did a little research on the subject.(placeforwildbirds.org)

It is known that most all baby birds are naked and blind when they come out of the egg. The parents work hard to keep them warm and full by feeding them every 15 minutes during the day. Most young birds ask for food by opening their beaks and peeping. The mother and father put food into their babies mouths, and they know exactly what foods are best for them.  In a very short time their eyes open and their feathers start to grow, they are then referred to as “nestlings”.   They grow so fast and in only two weeks when they have feathers and a tail they are called “fledglings”. They are curious and want to explore the world. They leave the nest even though they cannot fully fly yet or eat on their own.  They hop on the ground and call to the parents to be fed.  It will take the fledglings a few days to be able to fly up to low branches and two weeks for them to learn to feed themselves. The parents show the young birds how to find food and what to eat. The adult birds make loud noises to warn the fledglings when danger is near.

After two more weeks, the babies are as big as adults and can fly as well. They are now called “juveniles”.  Some will still beg to their parents for food even though they can eat on their own. Soon the mom and dad start preparing for their next group of babies as the last group heads off and spreads their wings to fly away on their own.  Wild birds can have 2-3 nests of young in the spring and summer.

5 and 6 half the nest

With two to three nests per year, it makes me wonder if the mama bird misses each set of young when they leave the nest. I wonder if she meets up with them somewhere secretly in the wildlife community of birds just to touch base and make sure they are okay on their own.  I wonder if they even know each other a year down the road and pass by with a little chirp to say hello.

7 and 8 half the nestAs I prepare for my own young adult i.e., half the nest, to leave and fly off on their own, I wonder if, like the mama bird, she will find the right foods to sustain her health; she will call out to me when she is scared or worried; she will still look to me for answers to some things, even though she can probably figure them out on her own.  I wonder if it’s still okay for me to chirp loudly from far away when if I think she may be in danger? Does the mama bird get upset when her young fly away and leave the nest?  If the mother child bond is so strong that she calls out to protect them from danger, how could it be that this instinct just disappears after they leave her nest?

baby fingers

As a mom, and knowing many other moms who have children leaving the nest, this is no easy task for us.  It is expected of us to nuture for 18 years, stand strong and then in the blink of an eye, let it all go. I do realize that they need to be independent and strong and live their own lives, and that God placed them in our hands to then give them wings to fly and be who they are supposed to be on this earth.

From what I have learned, college freshmen are given many opportunities for support and activities as they begin this new journey into their college.  They have all sorts of bonding activities and groups to join and counselors if needed.  But what about us parents who one day wake up and their family dynamics are not what we have known for so long.  How do we do this without falling apart, without feeling so lost from what we once knew.  Family dinners around the table.  Checking in with each other each morning and night and knowing each others schedules for the day.  As many of you have experienced, it is not easy to be on the other end of this institutional higher education thing.

baby sleeping

My heart skips a beat as I recall the days of jumping out of my bed without a thought hearing their cry from the bedroom and waking up in the middle of the night to nurse my children as they made their own unique chirp sounds for food.  We have been their only source of nourishment and the only way to provide for them since infancy. Then they start to wobble around as toddlers and want to explore the world.   We have called out to protect them every second of every day, we watched for cars passing by as they held our hand and crossed the street, we reminded them of when to bathe and sleep and eat at all the right times.  They want to do things their own way for quite some time then they enter into the juvenile and middle school ages and this goes on for years into high school, and sometimes even longer than we would like to have to remind them of these things.

Then in a blink of an eye, they must do it all on their own. They must figure out their own schedules and nourish their own bodies.   Mama bird is no longer in their midst to call out to protect them if she sees imminent danger, to cook the best nutritious food for them, to remind them that sleep is important and staying up all night long will make you feel crumby the next day.

Isle of Shoals 7-29-12 -47

As the mama bird does, we too must let them fly away.  It is our duty and their right in this life.  We have to let go in order for them to grow and learn and mature and make wise choices and meet other people who may be very different from what they are used to. To carve out their own path in this life.

I hear the same story over and over during my senior portrait sessions, when chatting with the moms, and what seems to be a common ground between us moms is the fact that there will be a gap that will be hard to fill, a gap in our hearts and souls and a gap in the family dynamics that was once all we knew.  No one is on this other end telling us what to do next, coaching us when we suddenly look around and realize that there will only be three plates on the table and not four. Or in the case of empty nesters, just one or two plates.

What I have realized in these months leading up to the time my daughter will leave for college is that, it is okay to cry.  I am a crier, and when I think about it, tears come rolling down my cheeks.  But it is okay to feel sad during this transition in life.  God gave us these feelings for a reason.  Some people cry and some don’t. And that is okay. It is a process and a transition that must happen in order to grow.

When my parents dropped me off at college as a freshmen, it was the first time I saw my Dad cry when he turned around and walked away.  It meant a lot to me then and still does to this day when I think back.  If I threw a party celebrating the fact that she is now out of the house what message would that relay?  I want her to know the depth of my love and the bond that we have and will always have.  Crying and showing our true feelings is okay, we are all human and it shows how strong that parent child bond really is.  (Just maybe have a lot of tissues and take it outside away from their new roommates. 🙂

teenager back beach

So what will I do next?

I will pray and know that God will protect her. That He will give her good friends and great opportunities.  That He will guard her heart and soul and give her wisdom to know what is right from wrong.  That He will keep her healthy and happy.

And on this other end, I will keep “chirping” and providing nourishing food and looking out for danger until the rest of the nest is empty.

One day at a time.

-Mama Bird

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