The Nest

This past spring, a Mama Bird very inconveniently built her nest in a wreath that hung on my shed doors. As soon as I saw it, I groaned.

“We are literally surrounded by trees! THERE IS A FOREST BEHIND US! Of all places! Why on earth would she build it HERE?”

But she did. And she wasn’t delicate about it. For days, we watched her purposefully trek back and forth with long strands of grass and bits of mud and leaves. The work looked exhausting, but she was relentless and it wasn’t long before she had it ready. I didn’t want to scare her, but any time I could get close enough to check it out, I was in awe of the sturdiness and precision.  She had literally crafted this nest in preparation for her babies.

This nest that had started out as a complete and total nuisance to me became a source of daily fascination. Any attempts we made to go near the shed were met with loud, distressing chirps and vigilante-style protection by Mama Bird. She let you know immediately that you were venturing into her territory.  She would fly about 15-feet away, perch on a branch nearby and watch with unrelenting eyes until we retreated. Then back to the nest she flew. After all, there were eggs in there now.

My God. The eggs. Her future flock. The most vibrant and beautiful blue you’ve ever seen. They were so perfect they hardly looked real. How did nature manufacture such a deep and unique color? No wonder the stakes were so high for her. She had a lot to lose. Even casual onlookers who kept their distance were barely acceptable. She made that perfectly clear:  “Don’t come any closer. I’m not okay with it.”

I could hardly believe myself, the way I started talking to her, especially once those eggs had hatched and her babies were born. If I had to get something out of the shed, I’d walk up slowly and talk quietly and soothingly to her the whole way. “Hey Mama Bird. I see you. I see you guarding those beautiful babies. I’m not going to bother you or get too close. I just need to get something and then I’ll be out of your way. It’s okay. Your babies are safe. Ssshhh. I’ll only be a minute.”

Had I lost my mind? But I felt like I understood her. I didn’t want her thinking for one second that I was going to hurt her. Or them. If anything, I felt protective now and completely invested in how this whole thing was going to turn out.


One night during this time, a storm rolled in. I already told you– the spot she picked to build this nest was ridiculous. Way less than ideal. The roof line of the shed barely covered the wreath and nest, if at all. It was so exposed and out in the open. I had to suppose she may not have realized this until it was too late. She certainly couldn’t move it now. But this storm was intense. It was one of those spring thunderstorms where you can feel a charge in the atmosphere. Powerful gusts of wind. Branches bending and swaying. When the sky finally opened up, it was torrential.

The rain came down in sheets that night and I was beside myself. I stood quietly, watching out the window, so afraid for this Mama and her babies. I knew she was tough and would know what to do– it was literally in her nature to shelter and protect them. But still, all this wind and rain. I couldn’t bear the thought of something happening to them now.


I had read up on the nesting period of Robins. It took 13 days for eggs to hatch and another 7-10 for the babies to fly. She was only days away. Those babies were almost ready to leave the nest. I quietly cried at the window. She worked so hard to make that nest safe and strong. She laid those eggs. She sat with them, day and night. They had to make it through this storm. They just had to.

I fell asleep that night worried about the birds, and the next morning, I was almost afraid to look. Lo and behold, the sun was shining, and there sat Mama Bird. Strong and tall. Safe and sound. Proud. They had made it through the night. She and her babies were safe after the storm. She had made sure of it.

In the days that followed, we watched tender little birdies peek and poke their tiny feathered heads out of the nest. Mama would fly away to find bits of food and return to feed and care for them. I kept wondering– How long will they stay? Surely they won’t all fit in there much longer. How does this work? How does she know when they’re ready to fly and survive on their own?

But somehow, it seemed, they just know. And so does she. They both know.

And then one day, before I even realized what was happening, they were gone. The nest was empty. She had done her job. And now they would do theirs. Fly. Live. Explore.

Soar.

There’s so much for them to see and experience. Sure there will be storms for them, but they’ve watched the Mama. They know what to do. And there are lots of sunny days, too. So many sunny days.


A few weeks later, I was out near the shed and there on the ground lay the nest. Cautiously, I picked it up. It was solid as a rock. There’s nothing flimsy and weak about a nest built by a Mama Bird. It’s funny. If you look at the wreath now, you’d hardly know a whole family had once lived there. But I know. I look, and I see it, and I remember.

 

 

A Reminder to All the Mamas Everywhere: You Gotta Keep Doing You.

mom in curlers

Lipstick and Mustache

Recently when my youngest daughter had a day off from school, I asked her what she wanted to do and gave her some options~

Me: “We could go to a pumpkin patch or cider mill. Go shopping? To lunch? Is there a movie you want to see?”

Her: “Maybe I’ll go to a movie with a friend.”

Me: Blank stare. Long pause. Hard swallow. Fake smile. “Great! Yes! Great! What a fun idea!”

Me, internally: WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT? Oh? Why, you ask? BECAUSE I THOUGHT MAYBE IT WOULD BE FUN TO DO SOMETHING TOGETHER. Jerk.

Man. I’m not gonna lie. My feelings were hurt big time. But she’s 13. And as much fun as we have together, (although apparently I’m having more fun than she is ) it’s totally normal and appropriate for her to want to spend time with her friends instead of her mom.

Whatever.

But it was a sharp reminder:

Mama needs to keep cultivating her own life.

empty nest

mommyish.com

I’ve got 3 kiddos, two of them technically legal adults already, and Little Miss Smarty Pants.

The nest is getting dangerously close to empty which inspires a guttural, emotional cry of~

They don’t really need me anymore!

(FIST PUMP!)

                      and

  They don’t really need me anymore…

             (TOTAL DESPAIR…)


Nothing is more thrilling than watching your kids grow and develop into these amazing, separate human beings, complete with their own lives and friends and interests.

But nothing is also more desperate and wrenching than realizing your days as Full-Time Mama are dwindling.

{For single moms, I think this can be an even greater challenge. We’re not rekindling a marriage or reconnecting with a partner. It’s us. We’ve got ourselves.And it’s equally exciting and terrifying.}

So Mamas everywhere–this is not new information–But here’s your reminder:

You gotta keep doing you.

There is more to life than the kids. There is more to you than motherhood. And if motherhood has swallowed up the entirety of who you are and completely suffocated who you used to be, please go back and find the girl you were before you had kids.

What did she love? What lit her up?

What made her eyes and heart glow with life and enthusiasm?

What will bring her sexy back??

If you can’t remember, find new things. Join or start a book club. Get back to the gym or find a walking buddy. Take a class. Learn something brand new. Follow any little spark of curiosity burning inside you.

Pink Lemonade Design

Pink Lemonade Design

But do these things NOW, while the birds are still in the nest.

 So when they DO leave (or you know, want to go to the movies with friends instead of you), you already have your jam. You know what you like. You have things to do. You have options.

But doing all of this isn’t just about you. It’s about your kids learning to see you as a whole person, with a whole personality— not as just a one-dimensional Mom character.

Kids should not grow up thinking they are the center of the universe.

Kids should grow up thinking there is a universe that pre-dates them and they are joining in and becoming a part of it.

When my girls watch me follow my own passions and do activities that have nothing to do with them, it frees them to keep pursuing their own interests and hobbies. It silently gives them permission to be themselves and do their own thing.

I never want my kids to feel responsible for my happiness. Their hearts cannot bear the burden of trying to fill something in me that was never meant to be filled by them (or any other person for that matter).

mom on beach

cafemom.com

I remind myself on the daily: Happiness is an inside job. 

My happiness is MY job.

And for now, their happiness is part of my job, too.

But it’s never too early for them to learn how to make THEIR own happiness

THEIR job, as well.


As it turned out, my daughter ended up spending her day off with me. We saw a movie, did a little shopping and a good time was had by all.

In my heart, my first choice will always be to spend time with my kids. But my second choice will always be me. So that when they come to me and say, “I’ve already got plans. Do you mind?”

I’ll smile and say from the bottom of my heart, “So do I.”