We bought some property in the country last year. One day we hope to build a house on the land. But this spring, my family planted a garden. Well in all honesty, my daughters and husband did the planting. Having been born with a brown thumb, no one trusted me in the garden. But my husband Steve, his thumb is a little greener. So just about everything he and the girls planted is growing like mad. Including the weeds.
Weeds I can handle, so the two of us, my husband and I, have spent many hours this summer weeding. I’m learning a great deal, and ironically it’s not just about gardening.
Each time we go out, I begin weeding on one end of the garden while Steve starts on the other. The goal is to meet in the middle. A few weeks back, just as I was knee deep in dirt and weeds, I heard a loud chirping. I looked up and discovered a small brown and white bird. She was crazy, flitting around and chirping like a maniac. She only backed away if I got too close, otherwise she continued her dance. Week after week we weeded, and every time we did so, I was given a squawky serenade.
“What’s the deal with this bird?” I finally asked my husband.
He looked up, taking note of where stood. “She’s got a nest,” he said, “by that third tomato plant.”
I moved toward the plant, peered down and saw it. Four little eggs, tucked away beneath the grass and weeds. Buff in color, the eggs had brown markings resembling dirt and sticks. As I studied them, I heard her again: crazy loud chirps. I quickly stepped back, looked up and saw mama bird, floundering on the ground. It appeared she had broken her wing.
“Look,” I said, “She’s hurt.”
“She’s not hurt,” said Steve, “she’s distracting you, she wants you to get away from her nest.”
Call me a city girl (which I am) but wow. I was amazed. This mama bird was putting on a complete show, pretending she’d broken her wing, all in hopes that she could lure me away from her precious babies.
My mama heart felt a tug of compassion. I know what it’s like to want to protect your babies. It’s instinctual I think, that deep-rooted desire to keep your offspring safe. The problem is, trying to do so is so often an exercise in futility.
She continued flailing and I must say, it was convincing.
“Don’t worry little mama,” I said, “I won’t hurt your babies.”
My words did nothing to convince her. She remained in position, screeching and flapping her wings. She didn’t stop until I moved away.
Later that evening, I did a little research and discovered my feathered friend was a Killdeer. Killdeers often nest in open fields and when threatened by predators (horses, cows, etc.) they chirp loudly and bob their heads up and down to get your attention. If that doesn’t work, they do their broken-wing act.
If she only knew I was on her side.
I have three daughters. One has flown the coop, one is in college and one will soon start high school. For all extensive purposes, I’m done raising two out of my three girls (go me!). And, seeing as the older ones are alive and productive humans, it seems like I should perhaps pat myself on the back for a job well done, yes? No. This isn’t how it works. Because while the job of raising children ends, you never stop being a mother. You never stop caring about your children’s well being.
My older girls are pretty great people (I’d say the same for the younger one but I don’t want to jinx myself). They are wise and kind and doing well in life. I don’t need to worry about them. And for the most part I don’t. Yet still, I am their mama. So that means…
I worry when they tell me their worries.
I feel sad when they feel sad.
And when life hands them a bad deal, my heart aches for what they have to go through.
Oh how I wish I could pretend to have a broken wing in order to distract life’s predators away from my girls (read: mean people, unfair circumstances, terrible bosses). But life doesn’t work that way. In fact, it never has. Most of what happens to us (and to my kids) is beyond my control.
Hopefully I’ve given my girls the coping strategies they need to get them through. They will indeed go through tough times. And I can’t fix their problems. Letting them grow up: it’s perhaps the hardest part of parenting. But here’s what I can do, like the mama Killdeer, I can be there for them.
I can listen.
I can care.
And, I can trust.
Trust that my adult daughters will find their own way in life.
Trust that my youngest will survive high school and come out okay.
Trust that God is with me through it all. And more importantly, that he’s also with them.
It’s been a rainy summer here in Indiana. We’ve reaped quite a harvest from the garden. It’s been amazing to watch these tiny seeds grow into something beautiful. Though there will always storms, I believe life is good, rich and full of beauty.
Last week when we went out to pull weeds, I was startled by the silence. Mama bird was nowhere to be found. And the nest? It was gone.
Did the eggs hatch? Did the baby birds find their way to freedom? I’ll never know. Yet I’m sure that no matter what, mama bird was right there with them. It’s where I’ll be too.