“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
– Kahlil Gibran
Disappointment and frustration clouded my daughters face when I gently explained that she could not pick up the baby bird in our backyard. She always keeps her net and bug jar close by, should she come across any butterfly, ladybug, frog, snake, salamander or any other living thing creeping across her path outside. Her whole face lights up when she finds a new small creature and can proudly show off her new catch and explain to us everything she knows about it.
“Mom, MomMomMomMom this toad is a Great Plains Toad. See, it looks just like the one in the book.”
In the case of the baby bird I told her that it was out of the nest but couldn’t yet fly, and that its mother was nearby watching out for it. So while we could look at it, we also had to leave it in its hiding place in the raspberry bush. My daughter wanted more than anything to pick up that small baby bird and hold it and keep it in a cage and raise it like a pet. She dreamed of bringing it worms three times a day and teaching it to fly. I told her the same thing I always do when it is time to release the turtle back to the pond, or the butterfly back to the tree. Wild things like the bird have to be free. If we really care about them we have to let them go instead of keeping them locked up in a jar.
Her eyes doubled in size when I explained to her that even though I love her, I can’t keep her locked in the house, she is a wild thing and needs to be free to play outside and explore too.
“Am I really a WILD thing mom?” Her mouth dropped open with surprise and delight at the thought.
“Yes, of course you are! You are wild and free and the whole world is for you to explore. You are just like the bird.”
Suddenly she got it. She understood the bird and how it wanted to play outside in the sunshine and rain instead of sitting in its room all day and it wasn’t as hard for her to not pick it up anymore.
The more my kids grow the more I realize that they are really ‘wild’ things. They have been given to me to love and take care of, but they are not mine to keep. I am just lucky enough to witness their growing up and living. They really are simply on loan to me from the universe while they are small and need lots of guidance and mothering to get by each day.
When my kids were babies and needed me 24/7 it was hard to imagine that they would ever have their own life or be able to do anything without me there. Now that they are older sometimes it takes my breath away to watch them chasing their dog, climbing trees in the backyard, or pedaling their bikes because I am so happy they are healthy and strong enough to do these things, and at the same time so afraid that something will happen to them while they are out running on their own without me standing right there to catch them if they fall. So I have to remember what I told my daughter about her baby bird, that wild things just need to be free, and be thankful that I get to watch them fly.