For Parents

The Rhythm of Being a Parent

Next to our front door is a mailbox that attaches to the house. Every spring, a Carolina wren builds her nest there. My wife has made a sign that we put out that asks the mail delivery person to please place our mail in the basket on the porch, not the mailbox. Most of the time it works well.

Sometimes she has 4 or 5 eggs in there. If I go out and accidentally surprise the nesting Mrs. Wren, she flies out with a speed that is startling and “yells” at me from her perch in the tree nearby.

When the eggs hatch, the babies start peeping whenever we get near. Their mother brings them food and they strain their necks to be the open mouth that gets the worm, or bug, or whatever she brings them. During their life together with us in the mailbox, the babies grow, become stronger, get their feathers, and depend less and less on mother, even though she is still there with nourishment when they need it. In just a few weeks, the babies move from totally dependent on others, to toddlers, children, teenage birds and then young adults. The consistency of their mother and her clarity of purpose allows her and to accomplish the goal of wren-parenting – letting them go.

June is a month in which many parents realize their children or grandchildren are growing up. In many different ways, our children graduate. Pre-schoolers visit kindergartens, Kindergarteners visit their first grade classes, middle school students prepare for high school, some head for college or jobs, or the military. Helping our children to grow, have confidence in their abilities and become accountable for their actions is the noble and difficult work of every parent. Launching our children is holy work.

The Book of Ecclesiastes holds a famous verse: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (3:1). There is a time for raising our children, and there is a time for letting them go. This natural rhythm will happen one way or another. The wise parents know that what they let go, will return to them in ways they can hardly anticipate.

When we go on our front porch and discover our mailbox holds an empty nest, we know it is time to put our sign away, put the basket back in the house, and clean out the mailbox. But when we are quiet and still, we realize that the songs of the wrens now fill the trees in our front yard and our neighborhood. The circle of life has turned before our eyes and ears. Thanks be to God.