This nest was knocked out of my crepe myrtle tree during the storms this weekend. When I saw it, I lifted it carefully, fearing that it had turned out eggs or sweet baby birds, but it was completely empty. The babies were gone - already fledged. I hope they were okay.
That process of fledging is such a quick one for birds - it takes only a few short weeks to go from hatchling to fledgling. The process for humans is decidedly more complex.
My babies aren't babies any more, but it can be so difficult to remember that when they fall asleep on the couch after a hard day of play, or when they wake up in the morning with their hair all mussed from a good night's sleep. I think it is less obvious in their transitional times between sleeping and waking.
Why is it so hard to let them grow up? I spend all my time teaching them to fly and wishing they would just stay in the nest. No one ever tells you, when you first become a parent, that the entire time your children are growing up you are teaching them to leave you.
But that really is our only task. As much as we would like to shelter them in our nests until the day WE die, that is not our calling. We (and by that I mean "I") often miss that point by coddling and protecting and keeping them from doing things they are fully capable of doing.
And then I spend a weekend watching them play tennis in a tournament. I watch them deal with frustration and anger and conflict resolution with the other player in an incredibly mature way. I watch them lose big and not fall apart. I watch them almost win, and then lose graciously in the face of their opponents celebration. I watch them shake hands across the net and walk off chatting amiably with the guy that just beat them. I listen to them plan how they are going to work on this thing or that with their coach the next week and I realize something.
I realize how amazing these little people are. I realize that they've reached a place where my parenting is little more than a gentle nudge in the right direction occasionally. I realize that they are steering their own ships with rudders much larger than me and that somehow they know how to do that. Somehow, miraculously, they understand how to do things that I've really never taught them.
Now - those of you with older children will laugh at me and tell me to get ready for the teen years, and I completely understand that my job is not finished. I know that. Teens are a whole different story and we'll deal with many NEW! and EXCITING! ISSUES!
I know that. I know that. I know that. We'll just call those years the flight lesson years.
Right now, my little chirpers are testing their wings - stretching them to see how big they are and how well they will hold them up when they do leave the nest. And I'm going to let them - even though it is hard to watch them grow away from me - even though they may fall and get hurt - even though it may break my heart.
I'll be there to help them up, dust them off a bit - help them reset their goals. And maybe feed them a worm or two.
Or a taco.