She was doing her best, and her best produced plump, tweeting, happy teenage Robins.
Between three squawking teenage kids, the momma Robin was moving fast. She’d barely get something in one beak, and a second beak was in her face. In their birdy language, they were saying, “Over hear!” “What about me?” “Can I have more?”
She obliged with tenderness and efficiency.
I spied them from a window. I watched as she flitted as if she’d never tire. I was so proud of her. She was focused on her most important job. I said, “Hey, you guys. I know what my next post will be about… “
I thought about single moms and kids raised without dads and how nature gives so many examples of how this is done and how it works. I thought about the good dads I know and how blessed their kids are. I thought about how the different facets of society keep telling single moms that we are failing our kids.
I Googled Robin Redbreast and learned that both the males and females of the American Robins protect and feed their young. I closed my laptop and thought, “Dammit, I can’t use the sweet story of the momma Robin as an illustration of how kids will be fine if they are only raised by their moms. Even American Robin males look out for their kids.”
I know what the experts say about the costs of parenting without a partner. I’ve heard the lectures about how our kids will come up short if they don’t have two involved parents. Sometimes – a lot of times – moms and dads don’t have any other option but to do their best on their own.
I filed that story, and the image of the busy bird, in my brain. The story needed work. (More likely, I needed confidence in my single-momma parenting.)
Four days later, the three of us wandered up the hill for dinner at grandma’s. As we walked down the driveway, I noticed a young Robin and immediately wondered if it was one of the three teenagers. Jenny ran off to look for grandpa and I went in search for worms. (Even though I know the stories about caring for an injured bird don’t always end well, I had to try.) I gently walked up to the teenager and placed three skinny worms on the pavement within a couple inches of the its beak. I slinked away as quietly as I could so as not to spook the bird any more than I already had. As I made the corner around the deck, I turned to see the hungry teenager eating the last of the worms.
It was time to turn this project over to Jenny.
There’s nothing quite like a 10 year old girl when she is on a mission. I simply suggested that the bird may also need some water, and got out of her way.
After serving water in a cupped leaf and then a flattened beer bottle cap, she found the Tupperware lid to be the best option. There was lots of running, digging and excitement as she delivered the worms. Nothing would stop her from attending to her friend. She could have played in the yard or worked with grandpa on another project, but she was single-minded in her determination to keep this bird alive.
She was doing her best.
The rest of us checked in periodically to watch the progress.
“How many worms has it eaten now, Jen?”
“I’m on 21.”
“You mean that frail little thing has eaten 21 worms!?”
“Yes. I guess it was hungry.”
“Don’t you have to worry about it blowing up from eating too many worms?”
“Knock it off, Will.”
During dinner, Jen ran to the window several times to check on her friend. While we were eating, the bird had wandered from the driveway to the side yard. Jenny was excited to see that the bird was getting stronger.
Now that she wouldn’t be able to catch it to feed it or give it water, she turned her attentions to the bird’s safety. She wondered if she should find a cardboard box to keep it protected during the night.
“It’s eaten a lot, honey. It’s so much stronger now. You’ve done your best. Even if you could catch it, you might freak it out by trying to contain it in a box.”
She sighed, agreed, and ran to the window to check on the bird.
We sat around the table and congratulated Jen on her care giving.
“You might be the Bird Whisperer.”
“I can’t believe a bird eats that many worms.”
“I guess it was hungry.”
“I guess it’s kinda like you, Will.”
As we headed home, Jen searched in the back yard for her buddy so she could say goodnight.
When she couldn’t find the bird, we decided that must be a good sign.
“It’s strong enough to fly! That’s a good thing.”
The next morning, grandma called to say she saw the bird in the side yard.
“Jen! You did your best and the bird made it through the night!”