As a teacher I always knew my kids would be a little nervous at the beginning of the school year and here is a trade secret, I was also nervous at the beginning of every school year too. So, I would dig into my teacher kit for icebreakers, games and cute notes to give them. However, I never once thought about the parents. After all, they weren’t the ones starting a new school year. Except now as a parent I feel like I am.
Just like when I was a child and then later as a teacher, I have the same build-up of nerves. I’m excited for her to see her old friends, I’m anxious for her to meet new friends and I’m slightly nostalgic about passing her old classroom. However, now there is a new emotion altogether, fear. I have all these irrational questions and scenarios bouncing around my head. What if she hates the snack and gets cranky? What if one of the new kids doesn’t get along with her? What if she’s too scared to ask questions and doesn’t learn? What if she falls into the wrong crowd and runs away to join the circus? Obviously, some scenarios are more likely than others, but the fear is very real. My initial reaction is to think I’m overreacting and bury all these feelings and emotions deep down so I can be put together and confident for her. However, this usually backfires because little ones are very perceptive. Then I started to think, how do other mothers deal with these transitions?
While simultaneously freaking out about the beginning of the school year with one of my friends over the phone I saw a cardinal land on our bird feeder. I joked with my friend that if a mother bird can kick her baby out of the nest, we should be able to drive our kids to preschool for a few hours with no problem. That notion got me thinking.
The truth is not all mother birds kick their kids out of the nest. According to the Massachusetts Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, all bird families handle these transitions differently. In some cases, the baby birds decide they want to leave the nest to find food and jump out, not very gracefully. However, the parents are usually nearby, which is probably why you hear crazy screaming from an adjacent tree if you approach a baby bird, and they continue to protect it and provide food for it. Then there are the moms who have had enough of their kid running around the nest and breaking all the good twigs. These species of birds, we’ll call them the Robins, do kick their kids out when they believe the kids are ready to be on their own. Although the parents will continue to feed them for some time once they have left. Then, there is my family. We are the Woodpeckers. These moms keep their kids in the nest as long as possible so that they can master as many skills as they can before they fly away from home.
Knowing that these mother birds handle these transitions differently brought me back to when my daughter was learning to walk. There were also three types of parents I came across during this phase in life. The mother who held her child’s hand every step of the way and bought all the ugly corner bumpers for her tables (Woodpeckers). The mother who watched carefully from afar and made sure the area was carpeted. Then finally, the mother who allowed her child to explore freely and find their way through trial and error (Robins).
The great things about these bird moms are that they don’t meet up at the coffee shop to bad mouth the other bird moms. They don’t offer unsolicited advice to each other when they pass one another at school drop off. They most likely don’t side-eye each other during school functions because they think that their way is the best way. They simply do what is best for their nest and their survival.
So, whether you are a Robin and feel confident dropping your child off on the first day of school through the car line with a big hug and kiss to send them on their way. Or whether you are a woodpecker who wants to walk their child into the classroom and make sure they know where their cubby is. Or you are somewhere in between. You should feel confident that you are doing what is best for your nest and so is everyone else.