Fly Away Home

Posted on July 27, 2017 · Posted in Uncategorized

Once upon a time, there was a baby bird who wanted to fly.

Mama bird said, “No, you’re not ready.” So Baby Bird waited. He watched as other baby birds learned to fly. He saw that it was hard, but he anxiously awaited his turn.

One day, he said, “Mama, I think I’m ready. I want to fly.”

But Mama said, “No” and pushed him back to the center of the nest.

This frustrated Baby, and even made him angry. He moved to the edge of the nest and prepared to jump anyway.

 

Now, at this point in the story, I perceive one of two things happening.

One, Baby Bird pushes past Mama and, despite her warnings and ultimatums, he jumps. He will fall or he will figure out how to fly. Either way, he will never look back at the nest, or Mama.

Or, Two, he will reluctantly give in to Mama Bird and settle down in the nest where his flying muscles will atrophy and he will remain dependent on Mama for the rest of his life.

There is actually a Third option. Mama Bird pushes aside her fear for Baby and gives him the opportunity to use his wings with all the love and support she can muster.

 

Parenting is no easy task. In my limited experience with it, I’m finding that the hardest part of being a parent is letting go of my child. I cannot live his life for him. He has to make his own choices and learn from them.

But what if…?

Well, let’s look at the options.

One, I can try to hold on to him as long as possible. I can be a “helicopter mom”, always making choices for him and telling him step by step what he needs to do. This may work for a while, but eventually he’s gonna catch on and realize that he’s got to get out and live his life. The more I hang on and push him back (out of my fear for him), the more he’s going to push back and stop listening to my opinions and advice. Pretty soon, there will be so much strife in our relationship that neither of us will be able to reconcile, at least not without a lot of hard work, and possibly some intervention.

Two, he can go along with my holding him back and stop trying to leave the nest. This keeps him around for my enjoyment a bit longer, but again causes strife because as he settles in for the duration, he loses his will to grow. Maybe he ends up a couch potato living in my basement for the rest of his life, unable to hold down a job because he never was able to practice those skills.

Then there’s option Number Three. I let him try his wings. I give him room to practice living on his own before he actually has to. I allow him to make decisions, and see the consequences of those decisions while I’m still around to help pick up the pieces should he need that help. I encourage him to develop his wings so that, when the time comes, he can jump out of the nest and we can both be fairly confident that he’s got what it takes. Easier said than done, but given that freedom, my guess is that when he needs help he’ll come home because he knows he’ll find a supportive environment rather than a place of “I told you so”s.

By the time I came along, my parents were older and had already been through five kids. They were pretty easy going at that point. I was allowed a lot more freedom than many of my peers (although not without guidelines), and I really appreciated it. More than that, I appreciated one of the first things Mom told me when I entered high school: “If you make a mistake, bring it home.” That one little phrase said so much to me because I knew that whatever happened in my life, my parents loved me and were on my side. They would help me through it. I knew many people in my school career that did not have that kind of support–parents pressuring for good grades (and I mean they were mad if it wasn’t straight As, not “did you do your best?”), girls getting pregnant and having abortions without the parents knowledge, drug problems they were left on their own to deal with.

“If you make a mistake, bring it home.” Such a simple phrase made such a difference, but only because I was allowed to leave home in order to be able to bring it home.

As a parent, that phrase is terrifying because it means I’m allowing my child the freedom to make mistakes, and there are some doozies out there. It’s a struggle to let my child go; I want to protect him from all of life’s troubles. I want him to find my definition of success.

Ultimately, I have to trust that God loves my child even more than I do. He has a plan for him and a way to lead him through it.

Baby Bird leaving the nest is as much about my faith as it is about his readiness.