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What women want -  Dec 14 - Jan 15

02 Dec 2014

All little birds must leave their nest, and it’s a mother’s job to protect her little darlings for as long as possible before judging when they are ready to be pushed off the ledge and she can trust that their wings will fly.

Well, on a scorching hot day not long ago, my son and I were heading out on our crunchy grass to fill water bowls for the dog (who, sensibly, had stayed inside out of the heat) when, before I had even thought it through, the words “what is that?!?” escaped my mouth. Now, it’s not unusual for words to escape my mouth faster than my mind can keep up, but this was one time that I really wanted to take them back urgently.

I had thought that it was a raw chicken wing (disgusting image, huh) on the grass, but with horror realised I had alerted my compassionate, animal-loving 11-year-old son to the disastrous consequences of our hot summer winds and baby birds nesting in the eaves. It was a blind, featherless and very-close-to-death baby bird. It wasn’t moving. Just as he realised what it was, his little mouth squealed “Mumma there’s more!”. Oh no. There was. Three pink, blind, featherless chicken wings – I mean birds – in the garden.

I tried to cuddle him, and explain in my most consoling voice that wind was nature’s way of controlling the bird population and there was nothing that could be done to save them.  He gave me a withering look, and said “Mum, all of God’s creatures deserve a second chance”.

Right. I popped inside to look for a box whilst, in my head, cursing myself for mentioning it. You see, I had absolutely nothing against trying to save the baby birds, but I had everything against my baby being heart broken when they not only died, which was surely inevitable, but would die in his care.

So we shredded newspaper, and placed these weird little creatures (I said that with love) into a box on the verandah, and I soaked bread in milk to try to drip into their little beaks. There wasn’t much movement, but my son made tissue blankets and sang to them and patted them for hours, dripping milk towards these three inert creatures every half hour.

They started moving. Just gently shuffling together. Then, they started opening their beaks when they heard his voice. He took them out, one by one, and held them against his chest, chatting about how they needed to be strong and focus on growing. He went outside, on the rare times he left the box, searching the skies in vain for the parent birds – I’m not exactly sure what the plan was if he sited them, but he seemed determined to reunite them none-the-less.

That night I told him that God would have seen every effort he had made with the birds. I told him that they would most likely “pass on” (how else do you put it to an 11year old?) in the night but the most important thing was they would go having felt love, with full little tummies and that was the best possible send off to heaven that a bird could get – much better than being baked by the sun and eaten by ants.

I did tell him that. Anyway, he won the argument that baby birds do belong inside and into the hallway they came, by the bedroom door, to surely die in the cool of the night.

I snuggled down with him and prepared myself for the tears in the morning. Up he got at 5am, looked in the box, touched them and the tears flowed. “They’re not moving, they’ve died”. And I went into my well-rehearsed speech of reassurance. About 20 minutes later, I heard something, something we hadn’t heard before – and he rushed back to the box – they were alive and giving little “tweats”! They’d been asleep. He took great joy in pointing out how wrong I was to not believe in them.

The first few days, I fed them a little of my protein powder mixed in with the milk, just to give them a boost – but then they started growing so much I thought we might inadvertently create pterodactyl birds!

So I looked up what we should feed them - bread and milk were the worst things. It didn’t mention protein powder. Who on earth would take such an expensive product and feed it to birds? But, in fairness, I did still believe we were on a palliative care program, not a serious nutrition program! We learned that soggy dog food was good. At least that’s cheaper than protein powder.

Now we also have a crazy boxer dog called Daisy, who was meant to be an outside dog, but is the most loved-up, sook with a pink blanket who lives inside, and believes she is human. However, her instincts are to hunt (more specifically, to hunt you down and then sit on you) and she was bursting to get to these birds. She has felled several of the neighbours chickens (they were in our yard. It’s really not my fault, right?) in a single swoop but the funniest thing in the world was watching her stick her head into this box of baby birds to have them peck her nose! She stepped back most indignantly. I felt sorry for her, she had a look on her face that said “but they’re birds! Birds stuffed with dog food – I gotta get some!”

My son took the birds, about two weeks later, onto the verandah and taught them to fly. They flew around the house, sat on our heads and constantly demanded food. And he loved them (Wilson, Gerry and Bulldust – he could even tell which was which). We had them all for another few days before they took off one morning when he’d gone to school. He was heart broken when he came home, but in a good way. He knew they were ready to leave home.

A day later, as my son got off the school bus, one of the birds landed on his shoulder. He came inside with it, and cuddled it, and the bird fell asleep in his hands. The bird slept in its box, alone, and in the morning took off to the skies. It just needed one more night of his love. I’m grateful that this experience was so incredibly different to what I feared it would be. I’m moved beyond words by my son’s compassion and dedication to vulnerable animals.

And I’ve learnt, that maybe I need to see that my son is learning to “fly” on his own, and I just need to trust that his wings will take care of him through life’s inevitable journeys.

All mothers must let their babies grow up and leave the nest one day. But I’ll never stop wanting to protect my baby, no matter how big he gets.

With love,
Abby x

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