The Woes of Parenthood

FTLComm - Tisdale - Sunday, July 1, 2001
The driving force in all of our lives is to procreate, humans and animals alike, we have a certainty of purpose and that is to be parents. But even though this seems to be our main function in life, we all are ill prepared for the difficulties that are associated with rearing young. Everyone of us wants to do a good job, we want the best for our kids and we want them to be happy, healthy and productive citizens, to will carry on our genes and make us all proud.

The problem with being a parent, is there are so many distinct and sometimes overwhelming constrictions that seems to crop up and interfere with the rearing process. We want our kids to think for themselves and be able to handle the pressure of peer groups, their curiousity, advertising and yet once we have done our work, we have to stand back and let them make the mistakes that will shape their lives, knowing full well that they could make "fatal" errors. Will she or he handle alcohol responsibly, will they drive with care and safety, will they live and love in a manner that will be both safe and happy, and all the while we are faced with their innate need to rebel.

Yesterday, I discovered that we humans are lucky, we have more than ten years when our children are pretty much dependent upon us, a time in which we can help them along, show them and teach them all sorts of skills and strategies, often by our own example. But consider our neighbours the crows.

In so many ways, crows are remarkably intelligent, they have a language to communicate with, they learn all sorts of things, including the use of making and using tools, and have a reasonable life span in which they must cope and challenge the environment. However, unlike us they have only days, rather than years, to get their young ones ready for life and the task must be absolutely huge.

At the top of the page is "Stupid" now, he probably is just like any other youngster, a little head strong and in his life almost the equivalent of a human teenager. His parents both told him he still has no tail feathers and though he can flap his wings, without a tail, flight is just impossible. Oh, but did he listen, like any smart ass teenager "Stupid" decided it was time to leave the tall spruce tree in our front yard and spread his beautiful wings. Indeed he glided to the ground but without the stability of a tail he can not take flight, he is a pedestrian until those feathers develop.

His mom and dad were absolutely beside themselves, they had warned him, they had done everything they could to keep him healthy and safe, but he had jumped and now was wandering around on the ground completely at the mercy of much more agile mammals of all kinds.

I spotted him sitting on the walk beside our empty garden (this was our year to give the garden a rest). He was peering around checking things out and after many minutes of observation he hopped along a bit to see what else this ground world had to offer. I grabbed the camera and went out to see what was happening.

Now, I have received the brunt of criticism in the past from humans and non humans alike, but the scolding I took was impressive, as I strolled into the back yard. Dad was (in the picture below) high above me in a tree and told me to stay out of there and go back in the house. Mom, on the other side of me literally yelled at the top of her little lungs for me to mind my own business. Dad even came out of the tree did a quick circle, yelling all the while and I told them, "Okay".

I explained I would not disturb "Stupid" and immediately both parents were somewhat at ease as they carefully watched me amble back into the house. For them, one threat deterred and perhaps days more of the same to go.

Today "Stupid" is exploring the neighbours yard, they are away for the weekend and their dog with them, so the tailess wonder wandered around their garden, over to the deck and around the lawn. Mom and Dad hovering and jumping from tree to tree nervously watching their progeny for this year head toward and away from various dangers. As I got out of the car, I was told in no uncertain terms, that the back yard was off limits for today. Neither of them had time to be apologetic, they just yelled at me.

Right now my guess is that "Stupid" has a less than 50% chance of ever taking off and enjoying the freedom his parents master. A clever cat, a dog on the loose, could taste this chubby black bird, but far more likely he will walk or hop under a passing car, stick his head into something that he shouldn't, or enter into some other misadventure for which he can not escape. My heart goes out to his parents, they are doing their best, patrolling in shifts and watching him, but even their size and speed would not protect the grounded one from harming himself.

Our youngest son is twenty-two today, far beyond the time where we can hover around and offer advice and protection, we have to rely upon what we taught him and the experiences he has had to help him along. He is going to be all right, we are confident in that, not only because we did our best, but because he unlike the feather fledgling wandering around the back yard, has already passed dozens of tests that have come along and both he and us can see that though he may faultier from time to time, he has what he needs to succeed. Learning to ride a bike, becoming an accomplished hockey player, playing in the band, shouldering responsibility at home and in his after-school jobs, heading off to collage, accomplishing success in his work, yeah he's going to be okay.