This spring I was thrilled to have a robin return to the nest on our porch to lay her eggs. I had left the nest there with the hopes of this happening. The nest sits atop an IKEA mirror cabinet and is afforded protection from the elements by virtue of being under our overhang. I was so excited about the creation of the nest last year that my husband installed a little wireless camera so I could watch the whole process unfold. Robin voyeur. Therefore, when I saw robin mom #2 (I would love it if it was the same robin mom as last year, but even I have to acknowledge this may be unlikely) start remodeling the nest, my first instinct was to turn the camera back on and watch from my home office computer.
Soon, we had 4 beautiful light blue eggs.
A week or so later, two somewhat homely birds suddenly emerged and mom and dad robin took turns literally feeding them all day.
A day or so later, #3 baby finally hatched. I kept looking and only seeing three babies, and kept thinking that maybe this was the limitations of my camera and that somehow #4 was just never in view.
About 10 days after the first births, baby #1 was gone. Baby #2 soon followed. Each would get in and out of the nest a bunch of times, testing the waters (by sitting next to the nest) before flying away for the first time.
Baby #3 hung out a few days longer, befitting his third child status. I grew pretty attached to him and one day walked up and started talking to him as he was in the testing position next to nest. Suddenly, he flew out of the nest right in front of my face. I involuntarily let out a blood curdling scream which brought the mother robin from out of nowhere to protect her progeny. They flew away together to the wooded area of our yard.
Recovering my wits, I went in to look at the empty nest from my computer. There it was. Egg #4. Never hatched. I felt kind of sad, but a part of me also chalked it up to nature. This is what happens sometimes, And mom needs to move on and take care of the three that hatched. It’s her job.
The parallels to my own motherhood were not lost on me. Thoughts of my miscarriage 13 years ago as I looked at egg #4 and the robin that would never be.
But other thoughts soon followed. About how in the robin mom world, babies turn into teenagers in 10 days, and mom has to quickly transition from spending all day feeding them as babies to letting them fly which is literally a leap of faith.
No doubt I am not as good at this as robin mom. I remember when my kids were little and I felt like every day was testing my mettle, older relatives and friends would say things like “just wait, you think this is hard? Wait till they are teenagers!” or “little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems.” Of course, this was never as helpful as these folks thought it was in telling me these “pearls of wisdom”, but I can’t say it isn’t totally true.
The teenage years of mothering are tough. Even the terrible twos are balanced by lots of snuggles and “I love yous”. Teenage years not so much.
And yet, it is probably the time when your kids may need you the most. A time when feeling as unloved and unappreciated as you do at times, you have to keep going. Watching them like the robin mom as they test the waters and get ready to fly, and helping to protect them from people and things that might be threats (even inadvertent ones like my talking to robin#3).
And so, I will keep on watching, close but not too close. And waiting to jump in in case I am needed. And snuggling my dogs for those times when the hugs from a teenager are few and far between.