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June 14, 2010

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. ~ C. S. Lewis

I was tending to my garden yesterday.


My solitude was interrupted by a bird perched on the picket fence no more than a foot away. It was frantic. It’s tail feathers were fanned in an effort to intimidate me as it screeched loudly. Soon another joined in the riot. Scout, the rat terrier,  was outside the garden and attacked by the birds when he trotted over to see what the commotion was. This came to a halt when he started barking at what he discovered.

FledglingPeople often see baby birds that are partially feathered sitting on the ground below a tree and automatically assume that they need to be rescued. At this stage in a bird’s development, they are considered “fledglings”. They normally will jump or fall out of the nest. This is their “flight training” stage. The mother bird will continue feeding the fledgling (on the ground) until it is able to fly, which usually takes a few days. These birds should be left alone. Keep cats, dogs, and curious children away  so the mother bird can continue to feed it. The fledglings are at risk from predators and even harsh weather while on the ground, but the danger must be faced so the next generation can take flight.

Mother Bird

The birds know instinctively what we humans have forgotten: accomplishment only comes by way of risks overcome. What risks do we consider acceptable for our children? In our eagerness to protect, we have created a padded world where the even the playground mulch is made of rubber and we don’t keep score so no one has to lose.  If you study the history of our country you will read of mere children routinely performing work that would tax today’s grown men and women. Their world was not easy and a simple mistake could mean the loss of life or limb. Life was far more dangerous then, yet those generations turned an empty continent into a world power in less than a hundred years. Our lives have thankfully become safer, easier and more comfortable than ever before. We live in circumstances that kings would once have envied. No one should wish for a return of the past.

Still, for all our progress, the world remains a dangerous place and our children will be left to conquer it alone. If we remove even the smallest of playground dangers, how will they have learned to persevere? If we take away the sting of defeats, and painful mistakes, will they ever feel the thrill of certainty that they are equal to any task?  We should be asking ourselves how safe is safe enough, what risks are not just acceptable, but necessary, and who gets to make that call.

Today’s parents should take a lesson from the birds. All children are fledglings. From the time babies learn to stand and take a few steps, they are beginning the process of leaving the nest to face an unforgiving world. Make them strong, confident and able.

33 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2010 11:45 pm


    Growing up, I learned that failing meant you had tried, and next time would do better. Getting boo-boos is a part of growing and learning. If we shield our children from all hurt feelings or skinned knees, if we allow them to think that if they don’t WIN it is “not fair,” if we make them afraid or ashamed of trying and failing — how sad.

    It is a dangerous world, but it is a far less dangerous world than it was a century and a half ago. That’s a good thing. But expecting a perfect world? I’m afraid that is not in the contract.

    Lovely photography! Beautiful post.

  2. June 15, 2010 12:42 am

    Thank you for sharing this post with parents. I’ve thought the same thing many times. By todays standards how did we ever grow up in one piece. No lead poisoning, playground equipment made with splintered wood and steel pipe. Played in the dirt all day, played in the woods and so many other examples of just rough and tumble playing. How in the world did we live through it all and how in the world will our children be strong enough, have enough imagination and be able to think about actions and consequences if we don’t give them the room to learn by trial and error?

    Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures too.

    Hugs…Tracy 🙂

  3. June 15, 2010 12:43 am

    Where is the scratch and sniff button? It has been very hot here and even my hardy vinca’s are showing signs of giving up. I can’t say I am a desert lover. Thank you so very much for sharing your bounty.

    Did you happen to notice a certain pair of favorite earrings lingering in a box in today’s post?

  4. June 15, 2010 5:40 am

    Beautiful pictures! How do you put your site name on them? I’m trying to protect some of mine from being “lifted”.

  5. June 15, 2010 6:11 am

    Your flowers are beautiful and your words important. I do agree that most are just letting children coast through life without teaching them the fundimentals of how to grow into young adults. I do think many have made life too easy for the children so that they do not know how to pick themselves up if they fall.

  6. June 15, 2010 6:11 am

    First, the obvious question:Is the baby bird still okay? This happens all the time in my yard as well. Except I have 2 very experienced hunting cats. I have had to keep them in the house for a few days so far this year. Lovely insightful post and as always, gorgeous photos.

  7. June 15, 2010 6:12 am

    I’m afraid that I am one of those guilty ones who want to give more to my children/grandchildren then I had. It was never more clear to me, how wrong I was, a few years ago when I was sharing the Christams holiday with some friends and their family. Our friends had two daughters, Jen and Laura, who had children of their own. It was very evident that the grandchildren, from the two families were brought up very different. Jen’s children who had everything given to them as soon it hit the store shelves, were pleased with their new gifts from their grandparents and thanked them. But Laura’s children were thrilled with even the smallest items they had received, hugged and kissed their grandparents telling them over and over again, throughout the day, how thankful they were for their presents. The smiles on Laura’s children’s faces were priceless, they held on to their new treasures as if they were afraid to put them down, fearing that they would lose them. On the other hand Jen’s children, didn’t give them a second thought once they were unwrapped and left them laying on the floor where they had opened them.
    I’m afraid that I am still guilty of giving/doing too much for our children/grandchildren, however, I have never forgotten the look of shear joy on the faces of Laura’s children and chide myself often for not being more like her.

  8. June 15, 2010 6:44 am

    Thank you for this post… as a young parent, it is a great reminder to nurture and not enable my children. You can watch from a distance, worry like crazy, fluff your feathers, but we cannot always jump in. The prayer from afar is often better than the doubtful monitor up close.

    Beautiful post!

  9. Jennifer permalink
    June 15, 2010 6:53 am

    Applause! Applause!
    I agree with you completely.
    Love the C.S. Lewis quote!

  10. Parsley permalink
    June 15, 2010 7:19 am

    {Me standing up clapping} Now I’m ‘winking’ ….but, but, I thought everything was supposed to be BANNED except padded rooms! 😉

    I was just giving my daughter a ‘be safe’ speech and after the fuss I realized my fledgling was independant enough that she’d rather break a leg than to be told. [She’s a little toot but I love her.]

  11. June 15, 2010 8:04 am

    What a lovely post! I have had to give in to my kids being without me for a week while my ankle tries to heal so it’s hard but good for them to be away from me and experience things on their own. It’s a learning experience for all of us!

  12. June 15, 2010 10:44 am

    I’ve thought this very thing for a long time now but have never been able to put it into words. You’ve done it so beautifully. Thank you.

  13. June 15, 2010 10:52 am

    Dearest Deborah,

    May I reach through the computer to give you a hug? My thoughts on raising my three children involved freedom. Freedom for them to discover who they were and what they enjoyed doing, without my medling and directing them into an unhappy adulthood. We experienced many, many rough spots together – and although I feel sad that they all live so far away, they know themselves and are doing what brings them joy.

    I always perk up when I see that you have posted. Lucky me to have found you, as I think of you as a dear friend.


  14. June 15, 2010 11:34 am

    CBC here did a documentary on helicopter parents….even to the point of the parents dealing with their childs/adults….job assesments…can you imaging phoning your kids employer about a job not well done? Or keeping tabs with the profs on your kids grades at university? That is how far some parents go.
    Great post.
    I am also very very annoyed at young adults on those reality singing/dancing shows where the parents over and over and over tell their kids how great they were when they clearly were horrible, and the experts are wrong. What is wrong with not being the best? Why are we telling ourselves and our kids lies? This building their self esteem thing has gone over the top, when clearly self esteem comes from hard work done well..

  15. ain't for city gals permalink
    June 15, 2010 2:49 pm

    It was my honor and pleasure to help raise my niece Sarah…from the very beginning I knew I wanted her to grow up to be a strong and independant woman….she is now 27 years old and in her third and final year of law school…knowing from age 5 that is what she wanted to do. My husband gave me on of the best compliments of my life …one day we were talking about Sarah and he said she was the spitting image of me!! I knew then I had accomplished my let her fly…

  16. June 15, 2010 6:16 pm

    Great post. We have baby birds out back and I love it when the little ones come out of the nest. I do hate it when they fall out to early. And some do get got by our dogs. But alot of them make it and come back to build there nest and lay there eggs. Or maybe they just all look the same. 🙂

  17. June 15, 2010 7:15 pm

    Fabulous post – as usual Deborah. It’s so true, and yet so hard – I hate seeing Aaron hurt – and yet I know he must. Thanks for the eloquent reminder.
    PS LOVE the hollyhocks :

  18. June 15, 2010 7:44 pm

    Deborah, what a beautiful post!

  19. June 15, 2010 8:45 pm

    When is your book going to be published?! I hate waiting in between posts because I love reading your writing. When it pops up on my phone that you have a new post, I feel like it’s a gift just for me — much like I feel on my birthday!

    Thank you for posting this. I am one of the few parents who sits back and often lets my child make mistakes (and fail at times). She attends a very competitive (yet public) school where parents coddle their kids, don’t keep score in sports, etc. I feel like a loner at times! Even still, I often feel like I give her too much. . .

    I have already forwarded your post on to several friends! Awesome job.

  20. June 15, 2010 9:07 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous images!
    And a lovely post. 🙂

  21. June 15, 2010 9:27 pm

    Good to see you again! Thank you about the information re: the baby birds. I learned alot about them. We had one in our front garden last year, and I thought it was a goner. It disappeared and I thought it was taken by a predator. Hopefully, it learned to fly or Mother came back around. Thanks for sharing.

  22. June 15, 2010 10:14 pm

    Love your blog,
    and C.S. Lewis!
    Such a treat
    xoxo~Kathy @
    Sweet Up-North Mornings…

  23. June 16, 2010 9:58 am

    Thank you so much for your post. I loved the beautiful pictures and it was interesting to read about the birds. I had a fledgling in my back yard and I think it is doing fine now.

  24. June 16, 2010 3:08 pm


    This post is a wonderful gift to parents (and grandparents). I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Why would a child ever strive to do better when he gets a trophy for mediocrity???

    Thanks for Mason’s gift and especially the gift of this post to all of us.


  25. June 16, 2010 7:39 pm

    How true it is, and as always so perfect phrased. Even as a child I used to never understand why everyone got trophies when I participated in sports- and I suppose the same rule applies in comparison to what you wrote.

    Your photos are lovely and your flowers are simply breath taking! I knew you would be unstoppable behind that new gift from Thomas!

  26. June 17, 2010 6:38 pm

    What a wonderful and challenging post! It is so true that we so overprotect our children, think that they must have more than ample opportunity to play, and deliver them from hard work that all too often they become “soft” and “mushy,” unable or unwilling to do a job and do it well. Our pastors have a work ethic like none I know of, and they have taught it to their children and encouraged our little congregation to do the same. I am so thankful to have grandchildren who are seeing this example and whose parents are striving to teach them.
    In His joy, Gloria

  27. June 17, 2010 11:59 pm

    I have a figurine on my desk of a mother robin on one side of a little teeter-totter with two baby birds on the other. It’s there to remind what a mom’s job really is, to make her kids independent! Still, I have a tough time with it sometimes!

  28. June 18, 2010 6:44 am

    Hi Deborah
    You are right about my project being bookshelves….actually built-ins! 🙂 Shhhh….don’t tell! LOL I have been gone with my hubby on a business trip for a week so I haven’t gotten to do much more on them since the pic….gotta get a move on so I can show my peeps what I’ve been doing! 🙂

    You are right about babies growing up too fast……..Lincoln went from my little baby laying in my arms, to a young man about to spread his wings in this great big, unsettled world. It scares me, but I’m also anxious for him to show the world what he’s got. He’s such a wonderful young man. 🙂 I can’t watch the video anymore….I bawl like a baby every time. I got teary eyed when you said you were crying watching it! 🙂 It’s so hard to watch our children grow up, but so rewarding to see what wonderful adults they become. I guess mine is still a fledgling…it’s hard not to help him want to fly. 🙂

    Thanks for checking in with me…I love ya lots!

    Melissa 🙂

  29. June 18, 2010 5:13 pm

    Deborah, my friend!
    I have been waiting anxiously for a new post from you! 🙂
    You never disappoint me with your insights and wisdom.
    We are at some of these crossroads with our own daughters right now.
    I am going to send this post to my hubby and post it on FaceBook-it is so right on!
    Thank you!
    And I LOVE C.S. Lewis.
    My favorite quote?
    “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.”
    Hugs to you, sweet lady!
    P.S. The pictures are fabulous!

  30. June 18, 2010 8:28 pm

    My sweet friend.. I know I posted a reply yet.. poof it’s gone.

    So here I am posting again to tell you what an eye you have. And with that hot new digi cam you’ll be snapping shots all over your town and never be without it.

    But you too have a gift of writing, so not only with the new pix enhance your blog.. they’ll enrich your writings.

    Love you lots,

  31. June 21, 2010 11:26 pm

    So true, Deborah…so true! It’s hard *not* swooping in and protecting our children from every potential risk – but as you say, this is how they learn – just like those little birds! How hard life was way back then, but what strong adults those children turned out to be! I’m afraid that is what the world is lacking now…strong adults. Little wonder why!

    Your new camera took some amazing shots. Wow! Those are keepers! I can’t wait to see more!

  32. June 23, 2010 12:32 am

    Hi there! Thanks for stopping by 504 Main…no my Dad does not live near enough to take care of my lawn..I wish…it could use some help.

    First your photos are gorgeous…what delightful garden! Your comparison of children to the fledglings really hit home. I have a 9 year old and my hubby and I have been trying to figure out how much to let him fly on his own…and that possibly we have protected him to much at times. I honesty felt like he was still a baby until a few years ago when I had my daughter and then I realized I need to let him fly a little more on his own.

  33. June 23, 2010 7:39 am


    So true, we are in danger of making our kids so dependent on things like cell phones and GPS systems that I’m afraid of what will happen if ever they have to function without the use of them. I am usually thankful when my kids find themselves in a bind. They need all the practice they can get over the next several years or I’ll be helping them out as long as I live. NO THANK YOU!

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