Fly Away, Little Bird (or at least flap your wings a little bit)
The other day, Desmond asked if he could have some ice cream. I replied sure and then got up to get it for him.
And then it occurred to me that the kid is 9 years-old and can probably get himself some ice cream.
So I sat back down and told him to go ahead and get it himself. He was a bit taken aback but proceeded trepidatiously into the kitchen, much like someone who is lost.
What followed was like an old episode of The Three Stooges. He wasn’t sure which side of the refrigerator was actually the freezer. He couldn’t reach the bowls. He didn’t know where the scooper was, and then he didn’t know how to use it. Through it all, I continually fought the urge to just do it for him. Good grief.
Then it hit me – he had never scooped his own ice cream before. Like, ever.
I have been trying to give the kids more responsibilities since we moved into our new house. They have to put their own laundry away. They have to clean their bathroom. They are expected to clean up after themselves. My son has to bring the dogs outside. Baby steps, right?
But it isn’t just about chores and responsibility. I mean, not really. It’s about them growing up. Not just me letting them grow up, but also encouraging them to grow up.
A few years ago a bird made her nest on our front porch, right near the door. If we peeked out the window closest to the door, we could see the wobbly baby bird heads that would disappear as soon as the door opened. They grew quickly – it was a matter of weeks before the nest was crowded with fully-feathered birds. One day, I happened to be watching the nest through the window when the mother bird flew off. In her exit, she seemed to flap her wings a little harder than usual, which jostled all the babies out. They fluttered off clumsily behind her.
Except for one.
He ended up hopping off into the grass. A heated lord-of-flies-esque scene quickly unfolded: the baby hiding in the shrubs, the blue jays diving low, the mother bird watching and diving at the blue jays, and I swear on my life a snake popped its head up through the top of another bush like a fucking puppet. We intervened, capturing the baby in a box and putting her back up in the nest so she could try that exit one more time.
The nest was empty within hours.
I decided that my wings need to be flapping a little bit harder so my baby birds realize they can fly.
So tonight, as I typed this, my kids are unloading the dishwasher together. For the first time. Like, ever. There were some initial complaints. I had to force myself to stay seated instead of jumping up to help every time one of them said “but I don’t know where this one goes!” Eventually, the dishes were put away in mostly the right places.
The kids seemed to get a little bit taller in those 10 minutes, I think.