My friend Michelle, who babysits Brendan while I’m at work, sent me a photo of him the other day eating some cheerios. I was so surprised he was handling them okay because he gags to the point of puking on whole puffs, so we have to break them up for him. She said he was doing fine with them. I felt a little like a mother bird who chews the baby bird’s food for him and spits it into his mouth. He’s 8 months and can handle a cheerio, step back mother bird.
Normally, this isn’t even my mothering default. I’m more like the mama bird who pushes her babies out of the nest to teach them how to fly. Come on, I whisper to the toddler, you’re a big guy now, you can do this, as I watch him struggle to put his shoes on the right feet. Grow up, grow up, grow up. Nudge, nudge, nudge.
John-Paul just recently landed a job at a homemade ice cream shop (like mother, like son!) as a bucket washer. If he does well at that, he’ll be able to work his way up to making waffle cones, serving customers, etc. He just turned 14 and we’ve been encouraging him to find a job because in two short years he will want a car to drive, a car that needs to be insured and requires gas to run. All of those things cost money and he needs to start saving his dollah dollah bills y’all, instead of spending it on candy. When I was your age, I remind him, I was already managing an ice cream store, working at least 36 hours a week in the summer, and depositing paychecks into my own bank account. Nudge.
|Our pumpkin head, JP.|
Last week, Phil was picking him up the kids from school and watched as a parent said hello to some of our kids. They said hi, but shyly, while looking at the ground. At dinner that night, a conversation ensued about how we should react when somebody (especially an adult!) says hello. We need to stop what we’re doing, look them in the eye, and engage in a conversation with them. We’ve discussed this so often, but in the moment they can all forget and need the gentle reminder. To be honest, even my introverted self needs a pep talk before a social function. It’s not always easy to feel friendly, we say, but we need to act like it anyway. Nudge.
|These four were my little crew for so long.|
Every morning that I drop off the kids at school I say “Goodbye, I love you, make good choices!” So much of our parenting energy goes into trying to shape our kids for the outside world. I want them to be independent, hard-working adults who treat everybody kindly and love God above all else. I want to prepare them for the real world and also for Heaven. It’s a lot of disciplining, teaching, encouraging, praying and nudging. It’s exhausting and exciting to see it all unfold.
Declan came up to me yesterday and said he had a surprise for me. “Ooooh what could it be?” I feigned interest as it’s usually a piece of trash behind his back. He gave me a huge hug. “That’s the surprise!” he shouted and ran away. Later on, Xander said he had to whisper something in my ear, so I bent over and he laid a kiss on my cheek. I turned around and planted one right back on him. Such a sweet reminder that mama birds have two roles – the pushing and the feeding. The encouraging and the nurturing. Sometimes I need to stop nudging quite so much, and start doing a little more chewing.
After all, baby birds will eventually learn how to fly, but they might not always have a mother around who loves them enough to chew their food and feather their nest.