Those tiny little helpless birds peck through their eggs into a world that is new to them. A world where they are completely dependent on their mama to keep them alive. And those baby birds get louder and louder when they need something to help them survive or thrive like food, water or a swift quick out of the nest when they have stayed too long.
For such a short while, those little birds count on mama bird for EVERYTHING. The babies are too weak, too little and not quite savvy enough to leave the nest and make it on their own. Over a very short period of time, those birds start to stretch their wings, testing them to see if they are ready to fly and just how far they can make it alone. Then one day, there is silence and as I peak in the nest (keeping an eye out for angry mama) the birds are gone. They have figured it out, so they go it alone and leave mama bird sitting alone on my pool fence. I actually feel kind of sorry for her, until her next nest of birds arrive along with her angry squawk.
As I watched my "baby bird" take the stage last week at his last middle school chorale performance, I couldn't help but think back to those early days, when like all babies, he needed me to survive. To feed him, love him, protect him and nurture him. Just like those baby birds, Ryan's cries were necessary to let me know he needed something, but, I couldn't always decipher what that something was and I felt as helpless as mama bird on my fence not knowing what to do next.
The difference between my baby bird and all the other birds his age, was that my baby held onto mama much longer than all the other birds flying around the neighborhood. For Ryan, the world outside the nest was scary and confusing, so it was much safer to stay than it was to go. So, I had no problem holding him tight and keeping his wings clipped.
Just like that annoying mama bird squawking, hovering and being a wee bit overprotective of her almost ready to take flight youngins, I may be guilty of trying to keep Ryan in the nest longer than necessary. I justify my hovering by wanting to protect him from all the predators and inherent dangers in the world. A world that is somewhat harder for him to navigate and land safely. I'd be lying though if I didn't confess that part of my reason for such protective hovering and squawking is I fear the day I too am alone on the pool fence with an empty nest mocking me.
As I watched Ryan cross the stage last week and find his place, he quickly scanned the audience for his mama bird. When our eyes met, he beamed. Ryan no longer needs me like he once did, the nest continues to get quieter and quieter (unless of course he is singing his head off to some Coldplay song in his bedroom), but, it's nice to know I am still sitting on the fence not far away if the world gets too big or scary. Ryan knows that no matter how far he flies, if his wings get tired and he needs to rest, he knows where he can safely land.
Watching Ryan approach the microphone for his brief solo, he no longer resembled that scared baby bird who was afraid to fly without me. He was confident, strong and his song was beautiful, and in that moment I knew that no matter where he goes, I will always hear him, even when perched alone on the pool fence.
High school will bring new adventures, new rewards, and new struggles, but, I have been watching Ryan stretch his wings for years and I know that when he is ready to fly, this little bird will soar beyond his mama bird's wildest dreams. I just hope he throws me a worm from time to time as I happily sit on the pool fence watching and protecting from afar.