This is Hop. Look carefully and you’ll see him. Hop was young robin who made our backyard his stomping grounds this summer through the fall. In fact, Hop was last seen two weeks into November. I am going to use the past tense to refer to him as I’m pretty sure if nature went the way it was supposed to, Hop is dead. I mean, hopefully not but his chance of existence given the freezing temperatures and snow on the ground now, pretty slim.
You see, Hop fell out of the nest before he could fly. Having learned from experience after rescuing baby bird Bob from Brockville traffic, we kept our distance from Hop so that his parents would have a chance to help. As the days went by, I watched these bird parents flap their wings in front of Hop, demonstrating to him how to fly but though he would give his wings a good all out flap from time to time, he never learned. They swooped in many times to keep predators at bay as their little Hop, hopped about our back yard, then around the side of our house and on our driveway at times. Wherever he was, they were a short swoop away. They fed him everyday, guarded him everyday and did not rest until they saw that he was safely tucked under our backyard fence boards. The other bird children, learned to fly and soared off on their own, but not Hop. Even though his wings looked fine and functional, he would not fly. He was content to just keep hopping about the back yard, pecking into the earth occasionally scoring a worm or an insect or morsel from our many barbecued meals, showing no interest in using his wings. Why would he? Life was fine. Everything he needed was right there in our back yard. He had a great hiding spot to retreat to when necessary and there was ample food (Hop was quite a plump fellow).
Tom, Logan and I would joke about this bird. We said it seemed today’s bird parent was reading some kind of “What to Expect…” parenting book and had turned into a bunch of enabler bird parents. They hovered, fed and protected him well into the time when he became full sized before leaving him to fend for himself. We had never seen birds parent their offspring the way these two parented Hop. Times definitely are a changin’ when birds parent like some human parents do.
The funny thing about Hop too, was how loud he was. He would chirp loudly as he hopped and bopped about in the open, drawing all kinds of attention to himself which caused his parents to chirp this shrill, loud warning signal and our backyard had become a venue for a loud, bad chirp fest, sun up to sun down until Hop was on his own.
This creature fascinated me. There he was, a bird, who by nature should have been abandoned because of his plight, still alive because his parents enabled his life. His wings had become a decorative feature on his body. He adapted to his situation and had become more like a chicken than a robin and in spite of all the treacherous situations he had blundered into, he survived from birth right to the onset of winter. If indeed he is still alive, it would be a miracle if he survives winter. I have a feeling we may just find a thawed Hop beneath the fence boards in the spring because honestly it’s really all about the survival of the fittest.
As human parents, we need to remember it’s still about survival of the fittest for us, too. I think we tend to forget that sometimes. Some of us have learned that if we wait long enough and flounder conspicuously, a human enabler will come around and save us. Some of us forget that it is not only natural but vital that our children learn to fail so they can succeed and we do them a great disservice when we do their homework for them, buy or curry favour their way onto a team or into a group, write their job applications for them or skip the application process altogether and make a phone call to a friend so they can get a job. Like Hop, when we write our children’s life story for them we are doing one of four things – we are reliving our lives through them in some sort of brutal attempt to fix our own shortcomings; we are telling them we don’t believe in them and we think they don’t have what it takes to carve their own path; we are telling them that our job and that of society as a whole is to pamper them and make it all better and most unfortunately of all, we are telling them they really are just puppets with no real value.
In the end, like Hop, these children will grow into adults who will fade into the background and then into the darkness then into nothingness because they were not fit enough to survive in this world because they were not given the tools by their parents.
When we are called to be parents we are supposed to love our children, protect them, treat them with respect and teach them by example and instill in them a sense of confidence. We are supposed to teach them to fly even if it means watching them suffer through the learning process and wade through the thick sludgy, murky waters of failure. Our children are the decision makers of the future and a great part of that group is being weakened by the parents who enable their children and allow them to be comfortable with their mediocre contribution to our communities and to life on the planet as a whole. These are the same young people who expect grandiose things to happen to them without any drive or effort on their part. New parents, do your kids a favour and do us all a favour. Let them run and fall and cry. Let them see the real score during the game. Tell them “no” without lengthy explanations. Make a distinction between them and authority. Let them see that bad things happen but if they pay attention long enough and persist, they will see that great things happen too. Teach them accountability, responsibility and generosity. Armed with these tools, they will be capable of leading and teaching and I for one will be more comfortable leaving the decision making of the future in their hands. But as it stands right now, I gotta say. I’m a little nervous.