Goshen News, Goshen, IN

June 7, 2014

NOT THAT YOU ASKED, BUT ...: Time to leave the nest brings a host of emotions

Goshen News

---- — It’s graduation time and whether one is graduating from high school or college it’s a time with a mixed bag of emotions — excitement, worry, pride, sadness — for both the graduate and his or her parents.

For parents who’ve spent 18 or 20 years tending to, fussing over or bailing out their child, it’s a new era. It’s sometimes hard to make that switch from being so central in our child’s life to not being involved in his or her daily life. We use all sorts of avian terms to describe this time — leaving the nest, empty nest syndrome (which by the way is not a syndrome, according to the talk show experts but rather a phenomenon) and failure to launch.

Failure to launch is that “phenomenon” when parents are more than ready to have the house to themselves and the kids aren’t ready to be on their own — or they leave and come back again (and again).

Looking at bird behavior we know that Mama Bird constructs a nest to lay her eggs. If you’ve ever looked closely at a nest it’s amazing how tightly they are able to weave together twigs, string, hair, leaves, etc., into an impressive safe nest. They settle into their nest to lay eggs and then sit on the eggs until they hatch. Once hatched the Mama and sometimes the Papa birds are very protective of the young — squawking at anyone who comes near the nests; bringing food back for the young. When the baby birds get their wings they start encouraging them to leave the nest — testing their wings while they hover nearby carefully watching over their fledglings.

What happens after that though? Do the adult birds come back for Thanksgiving? Do they bring their babies to show off to the grand birds? Do they recognize one another or is it a complete and total disconnect?

I pushed some birds out of the nest recently. Well, scared them out is more accurate and I am speaking literally of birds. I often have a nest built above my porch light, but not this year. It took me a little while to figure out why the neighbor kids were making a daily but quick trip to my front porch as soon as they got off the school bus. I realized there must be a bird’s nest in the tall shrub by my front door and a look out my front window confirmed that.

But I forgot about it when I was outside and noticed a dead branch in this shrub and yanked it out. Out flew two very startled robin parents followed by their frightened fledglings. One landed somewhere in the landscaping below my front windows and the other was out in the yard, hopping and flopping and flapping its wings. I was concerned about that bird because it wasn’t able to fly enough to defend itself from my cat Angel the Huntress or from other neighborhood cats or dogs. But I knew the parents were up in the tree squawking and swooping so I thought it best to leave it alone.

So I went inside but I couldn’t quit worrying about the birds and about the neighbor kid’s reaction. I thought, “I have to get those babies back in their nest!”

I went outside wearing garden gloves in case one wanted to bite me and one of the fledglings was inside my low flowering almond bush, but it got scared when I walked past and flew out. So I decided to shepherd it back toward the tall shrub with the nest in the hopes it would make its way back in.

I’m chasing this baby bird around my front yard as in its terrified state it’s squealing with the wide-open baby bird mouth. Its frantic parents were dive-bombing me squawking and swooping and images of getting my eyes pecked out a la Hitchcock’s “The Birds” came to mind and I realized I wasn’t helping.

As soon as the school bus deposited the neighbor kids one came over and I could hear the excitement in her voice as she shared with her siblings that the birds had flown the nest so I had to go out and fess up. They decided to go on a mission to find the babies and return them to the nest. Not 10 minutes late they rang my bell and had captured one of the babies. Together we got it back onto the shrub near the nest.

Well, the next day the nest was once again empty so I guess Mom and Dad robin felt that even though it might be a few days premature their fledglings would be OK.

I wondered why it is so easy for birds and not for us. I’d heard of another bird species — though which one escapes me at the moment — where once the babies are hatched the mama goes about building a nest for each baby to inhabit later. But by the time the baby is old enough, the nest has been deteriorated by the elements because I was told, the moral of the story is each one has to make it on its own.

As human parents when we see that our young are reaching his or her goals, getting the degree, getting a steady job, finding the perfect soulmate, having children and parenting them, well it is easier to be OK with not having that control or input. They’ve spread their wings and are soaring.

But when we see them flopping and hopping about, lost and not finding their way that’s when we want to swoop in and threaten to peck anyone or anything who is threatening our fledgling. So maybe the bird comparisons make sense after all.

Best wishes to all the area graduates as they launch into a new chapter of life and best wishes to their parents!

Denise Fedorow is a columnist and correspondent for The Goshen News. Her column appears every other week. She also wants to wish all the dads and granddads a very Happy Father’s Day. You can reach her by email at fed1@bnin.net or on Facebook.