I headed for the next bluebird house a little more slowly and quietly. Nothing flew out as I approached, so I carefully unlatched and opened the door and saw what appeared to be a brand new nest, waiting for the Mama and her eggs. Another too little, too late moment for me. The third house was the only one we could actually clean an old nest out of, and make ready for a new avian family. Next year I will do better!
I have watched birds parenting their babies for fifteen years now and it always amazes me. I have seen cardinals bring their young to the feeder to show them where to eat. I have seen a mockingbird do the same as that first bluebird I mentioned, flying away from the nest in hopes of distracting me from the eggs, and later the nestlings. I have seen a hawk teach her babies how to hunt, bringing them back to the nest in the evening with whatever prey they have found, a good week of lessons before the young hawk finally flew away to fend on its own. I have seen a mama wren teaching her little ones to fly, watching them carefully as they flitted barely a foot off the ground, moving with them around the house until they could finally lift themselves high enough to safety.
All of those small feathered parents have succeeded in their tasks. The babies eat and grow, learn and practice, and ultimately leave behind an "empty nest" to begin their own lives, to have their own babies, and do the same teaching all over again.
I wonder about some human parents. Some of us forget that the point of teaching is to work our way out of a job. If your children still need you to tell them how to behave, how to take care of their personal hygiene, how to handle money, how to get along with others, how to obey the laws of the land and stay out of trouble, when they are approaching thirty, what in the world did you do all those years when you had them as a "captive audience?" If they cannot leave the nest and survive in the world, something went dreadfully wrong.
Some parents are too sheltering. It is one thing to hide the ugliness of the world from a little one, it is another to allow a teenager to think everyone is a friend and can be trusted implicitly, even the stranger on the street corner. If, as I did, you live mainly among your brethren, your children will more than likely be taken advantage of one way or the other because they have not learned that not everyone out there has good intentions. It's up to you to warn them.
Some parents want so badly to be their child's "friend" that they do not act like the parents they truly need, teaching them responsibility and a good work ethic. So we continually pick up after them and wait on them like they are royalty, granting every wish their heart desires. Meanwhile, they never learn how to take care of themselves and, in fact, as adults they do not, wreaking havoc on their physical health, their economic reputations, and their ability to work for a living. One reason we chose to live in the country is that the chores were not make-work. Helping their father cut wood, stack it so it would be preserved, and carry it to the wood stove in the house, kept us warm on cold, winter days. They knew their work mattered. Do you know how those Bible characters did so well as children? People in those times raised their children to be responsible over serious matters from the time they could walk. They were expected to be adults, having families and providing for them by their mid-teens because they were trained to be able to do that by then. (No. I am not advocating teen marriages.) We mollycoddle them, then wonder why they are still so immature at 16 and 17! Meanwhile, we expect them to be able to commit their lives to God at 12, when our culture does not prepare them for such a thing. That does not mean a particular set of parents can't do it, but how many of those twelve year olds still have to be nagged into doing their Bible lessons and refuse to turn off the video games to do so? They have no clue what lifetime commitment and devotion mean at all.
Some parents shield their children from the consequences of their mistakes. We want to "fix" everything for them if we can, but at some point, we need to stop that. They will grow up thinking they will always get out of the messes they make of their lives unscathed. Far better to let them suffer a tiny bit on something that may seem earth-shattering at the age of 8 and learn the lesson then, than to let them learn it as they sit across the table from a probation officer, or worse, in a prison cell. At that point, it may even be impossible for them to learn.
And some parents seem to think that their children should never leave the nest at all. Oh, they might have their own apartments or even houses, but it had better be close by and we had better see them several times a week! And many children love it. They are so used to Mom doing their laundry and cooking their meals they wouldn't want it any other way. That "empty nest" that so many are afraid of is perfectly normal. That's why it is so important to keep your marriage strong—one of these days, God meant that it would just be the two of you again, as it was for your parents when you left the nest.
If we were all birds, I can't help but wonder how many of our children would survive. How many would never learn to fly and wind up easy pickings for the neighbor's cat, or out here in the country, the coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and snakes? How many would starve because they never learned how to provide for themselves? And how long before all birds ceased to exist because all the babies stayed in the nest without forming normal healthy relationships with anyone except Mom and Dad?
I used to tell my piano students that my job was to help them reach the point that they no longer needed me. That's a hard thing for a parent to even contemplate, but all things being equal, one day we will be gone long before they are. What will happen to your little birds then?
Yea, the stork in the heavens knows her appointed times; and the turtle-dove and the swallow and the crane observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the law of Jehovah, Jer 8:7