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Mama Bear Moxie: Time for kids – and mama – to learn some independence

We live on a farm and have so many babies during the late spring and early summer season. I sit and watch mama birds, chickens, rabbits and ducks all sacrifice themselves for the well-being of their children. I see their tenacious spirit in giving up sleep, food, water and their normal lives as they wait for their babies to be born. Then, I watch them parent these babies and am always amazed at how well a mama knows her kids. There are quick glimpses when I meet the eyes of these mamas and we share an overwhelming look that is equal parts exhaustion, love and overprotection.

So this summer when my daughter found a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest I found yet another connection I have to these mamas of nature. The baby bird had fallen out because it was obviously too big to be in the nest anymore. It had feathers with just a small amount of down which meant it was ready to face the world. The baby bird kept squawking for its mama, but the nest was too high in the tree for us to return him. So we put the baby in a protected bush where the mama could see him. He sat there and squawked but the mama never came to rescue him. Eventually he hopped out of the bush and flew off. He was big enough to leave the nest.

I am an overprotective mom. I am a mama bear that fiercely guards my children’s hearts and minds. I have always had trouble letting go, whether it be going to school, staying over at grandma’s house or leaving for a trip. I have to fight with myself to let the reigns loose as my children age.

However, this summer has marked a change in my parenting of my children. I have realized that I need to give my two sons more chances to gain some independence. They can’t stay under my wing forever, and I can’t protect them all of the time.

My younger son headed off to Boy Scout camp for six nights this month, and it was hard for me to let him go. He is definitely my more spirited and independent son and was so excited to go while I questioned his readiness. It wasn’t really his readiness but my own in letting go of some of that control and trusting that he was in a safe environment. He is at that tender age when he wants to leave my nest but also needs an equal part of comfort that only the nest can provide.

My older son has turned 13 this summer and I decided that he needed to be able to spread his wings and fly a little bit too. As my more subdued offspring, he has always needed more of a push to get him going into the world. It worked out this summer for my teenager to go on his first flight alone to the West Coast. I know, I know, I can’t believe that I booked the trip for him either. It is very out of the ordinary for me to allow my child to be away from the family for more than a few days let alone climb into a plane that will be six miles above the earth for four hours. I can guarantee that I will feel nervous but also equal parts excited for him to do this by himself and gain just a little more independence.

I wonder if that mama bird watched in horror as her little one fell out of the nest or if she straight up pushed him to get him going. I have learned that sometimes mothering older kids is equal parts protection and pushing. You have to allow your kids opportunities to grow or they will never leave the nest well when it is time to go.

Like myself, I think that this mama bird maybe did a little bit of both.

Kristina Phelan is a former Spokane-area resident now living in Illinois. www.mamabear moxie.com. Visit her website at www.mamabearmoxie.com.


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