Of Birds and Parenting

Safe Passage detail: Ink, watercolor, pastel.

Safe Passage detail: Ink, watercolor, pastel. (c) Colleen Briggs, 2013.

Scampering around in the grass barefoot, my son suddenly squealed and leapt for the concrete patio.  I went to inspect the source of his alarm:  a quivering huddle of feathers. He assumed it was dead like another hapless victim, a naked nestling, we found earlier that evening on a nearby rock. But as I knelt in the grass, I could see its abdomen subtly but steadily drawing air in and out. Sadly, I surmised it would soon suffer the fate of its nest-mate.

A few days prior, my husband and I sat on our patio, entertained by an animal version of an Old West shoot-out. A squirrel, armed and dangerous with a hungry stomach, stealthily approached a nest balanced on a grapevine. Out of nowhere, two birds dive-bombed the bandit, chased it to a nearby tree, up the tree, around the tree, out a limb and onto our neighbor’s roof. Mercilessly they convinced the squirrel to never again risk the wrath of parent birds.

Kneeling on the grass, I looked up at the nest. It tipped precariously, knocked over by monsoon rains the night before. It seemed the little bird flushed from its nest prematurely.

A gaggle of kids joined us for the evening and one of them suggested that we try to feed the little lump of down. Upending rocks, we scurried on a worm hunt. One by one, our offerings disappeared down the bird’s gullet, and the little mouth yawned wide again.

I began to hope the bird might live.

We scooped up our tiny new friend in a towel. He looked decidedly disgruntled, as if he realized now that he might live and he could afford the energy to feel quite angry about his recent experiences. Unable to satisfy his insatiable appetite with our yard’s worm supply, my husband headed to the pet store. After he returned, we plugged in an internet search:  “how to rescue a baby bird.” We learned that we should simply return our new friend to his nest.

I climbed a ladder, and, surprised, discovered another baby bird huddled in the lip of the sideways nest. Dislodging their home with a gloved-hand, I reunited the two fledglings and gingerly nestled the bird home high up in the grapevine.

I worried that maybe the parents were harmed or driven away in the night’s violent storm. Or, if they were still somewhere nearby, perhaps they wouldn’t recognize or accept their nest moved a few feet away from where they created it.

But I hoped. Somehow, I really needed those birds to live.

The next morning I savored the early light in my favorite spot on the patio. I watched exultantly as the mama bird swooped and dropped worms into two tiny beaks poking insistently over the edge of the nest. Then, yesterday morning, I caught site of a little bird flitting in the grapevine, delighting in its new-found ability.

And I felt a surge of hope. Perhaps I so needed those birds to live because my soul sensed a desperately craved parable of promise unfolding in the encounter.

You see, I nurture four precious children in my nest at the moment; and the oldest prepares to explore the wild blue sky independently. He starts his last year of secondary school soon; and this summer we visit college campuses, dreaming and planning for the future. The other three nip at his heels. All too soon this season will pass. I wrestle daily with anxiety, wondering if I’ve taught them everything they need to know, feeling inept at this “launching-thing.”

Sometimes my children fall out of the nest because of unexpected disaster or even due to their own mistakes. I am sorely tempted to snatch them back into my control (as if I truly possessed any) and nurse them along in towels with store-bought worms, hoping they might survive.

When really what I need to do is just put them back where they belong, in an altogether different nest:  the safe home of God’s relentless love and sovereign provision. Then I can trust that not only will they live. They will fly.

9 thoughts on “Of Birds and Parenting

  1. Thank you for the lovely story, and the weaving of wisdom. Slowly but surely I am accepting that grace has an inscrutable and delightful method to its seeming madness… 🙂



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