My babies want to fly

I don’t know if you have been wondering about the baby hawks I’ve written about, first here and then here.  If you have, you’re in luck, because I found several updates about them from this past week that detail Lucy, Larry, and Lucky’s various adventures after successfully fledging.  If you click through to that link in the previous sentence, read PHAWK’s updates if you read nothing else.  His are the best written, and he’s the man I referred to as Ed in a previous post, who has been birding for 40+ years, and is an expert on raptors.  Also, if you want to see some amazing video of the “flight school” that the hawk parents, Buzz and Ruby, put on for the fledglings, watch this:

As I’ve said before, I have been just as fascinated by the people who have been watching the hawks (some of them have decided to call themselves “hawk stalkers”) as I am by the hawks themselves.  I’m especially intrigued by the variety of human emotions and perspectives that people project onto these birds.

Then I remember reading Natalie Angier’s stunning book, “Woman: an intimate geography.”  Specifically, I remember reading her write about thirst as an emotion.  [Note: Courtesy of Google books, the link at the end of the previous sentence will take you to the very page where she describes this.  If you don’t read the whole book, at least read page 197.]  If thirst is an emotion, it only follows that hunger is, too.   The “hawk stalkers” are doing a bang-up job of documenting the persistent hunger of the juveniles Lucy, Larry and Lucky. Many of the recent updates detail the crying, even whining, that the juveniles are doing, since their abilities to hunt and feed themselves are not nearly so far advanced as their appetites.  The hawk stalkers are also documenting how Buzz and Ruby are keeping an eye on their young, bringing them food, watching as the juveniles try to figure out how to “open” a mouse or a chipmunk they’ve been given.  I’m no Marlin Perkins, but even knowing all the things they’re doing to help their fledglings, I still can’t imagine that Buzz and Ruby are feeling the parental cocktail of pride, nostalgia, wistfulness, and heartache that many of the humans project onto them.  This emotional margarita is the one that so often swims in our veins when our kids “fledge” from one phase to another.

I first remember feeling the effects of that swirly cocktail whenever I would look at GForce’s toothless grin:  “Oh man, teeth are going to RUIN that smile!”  I actually believed that her toothless smile was the apex of all smiling, and that once her teeth came in, her smile would be fine enough, but fine in the Eeyore-ish sense of the word.  Fine as in, “Oh well, I guess this is the best I can hope for.”  It sounds ridiculous now, but I felt that way so intensely for those few months between when she started smiling and when she cut her first tooth when she was not quite five months old.

Going back to the hawks, it seems to me that the hawk parents are perfect examples of parenting as an exercise in eternal heartbreak:  if you’re doing your job as a parent, and your children are lucky enough to be born with the ability to grow into independent adults, then your children eventually evolve to the point where they don’t need you.  Buzz and Ruby have been bringing food to their three juveniles, and in some cases have been seen teaching their offspring how to hunt, using pine cones as stand-ins for prey.  Ultimately, though, the juveniles’ jobs are to not need Buzz and Ruby anymore.  In fact, the juveniles’ very survival depends primarily on fending for themselves, learning how to fly and hunt well enough to survive on their own out there in the whole wide world.  My assumption is that hawk parents don’t get too hung up about not being needed.  Maybe it’s even a relief.  But, from my point of view, every step of my kids not needing me has contained some measure of (sometimes gleeful) excitement and (sometimes overwhelming) heartbreak.

It starts like this.  As an expectant mother, I had this intensely intimate, private experience of carrying a whole different life around inside me, one that was completely dependent on me and inextricably a part of me for a brief period of time.  My friend Patricia was pregnant with her second child while I was pregnant with GForce.  One time late in our pregnancies (August in Northern Virginia – nuff said), I remember uttering that familiar complaint “Ugh, I can’t WAIT for this to be over!”  Patricia said, “I know exactly what you mean, but I have to tell you to be ready to miss having that little life all to yourself.”  At the time, I thought she was crazy, since GForce had developed a fondness for spinning and turning in ways that felt like she was alternately break dancing and attempting to moon the world through my belly.  But after GForce was born, I knew exactly, and deeply, what Patricia was talking about.

Then, as a nursing mother, babies eventually lose interest in breastfeeding, so you lose that connection.  Even when you bottle-feed them, you still have that experience of cradling them while they eat.  Then kids graduate to being spoon-fed while sitting in a chair.  Then, voila! they can eat Cheerios and green beans all by themselves.  Then they start sitting in a regular chair, using their own utensils to eat regular food, but maybe you still serve them.  And then at some point they get really pissed because they don’t like the portions you dole out and they want to serve themselves (not that I have any experience with that.)  You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon (to quote our former president) to see where this arc is headed.

Like Lucy, Larry and Lucky, my babies want to fly.  Sheerah recently decided to stay in Philadelphia to go to graduate school.  I’m simultaneously bursting with pride for her and wistful for the time we could have had together if she had decided to come back up here and go to Boston University instead.  Who knows where Lulu’s journeys of adulthood will take her.  For now, she seems to want to stay close to home, but she’s rightly worried about having to live at home while she gets her feet on the ground.  I simultaneously feel a) well, who could blame her for wanting to live on her own and 2) she’s one of the funniest people on the planet and I can’t wait to have her around more.  GForce is already in that age-appropriate phase of wanting to spend more time with her friends than with her moms.  Teenage years being what they are, chances are good that things with her will get MUCH gnarlier before they get better.  With the 11 year age difference in our girls between the eldest and the youngest, we have plenty of opportunities to see that the arc of maturity may vary in length, but it always points away from the womb.

I was thinking this morning about the juvenile hawks, and our own kids, and I stumbled upon a song by Kristin Andreassen called “Fly.”  While the lyrics appear to tell a story of a breakup, it’s not that much of a leap to apply them to the juvenile hawks, or to the heartbreaking conundrum of parenting our own three offspring.  I want them all to fly, to give birth to their own possibilities, as the singer puts it.  At the same time, I still miss every phase that has come before, every step that has brought us all to here.

Almost 14 years ago, when GForce finally emerged from my body, I instinctively reached down and tried to pull her up to my chest.  I still remember the midwife shouting, “Wait wait WAIT!!!  The cord isn’t THAT long!”  As it turns out, the cord stretches farther than anyone can possibly imagine.  You just can’t see it.

Fly
by  Kristin Andreassen / Yellowcar Music, ASCAP

There’s a scar in the sky when a plane goes by.
Like a surgery gave birth to possibility.
My baby wants to fly.
My baby wants to fly away from me.
There’s a look in your eye, I can’t describe.
All I know, it’s unsatisfied.
My baby wants to fly.
My baby wants to fly away from me.
There’s talk goin’ down, you’re running around.
I kinda think you wanna be found.
My baby wants to fly.
My baby wants to fly away from me.
Flee. Fly from this slow slum.
If I smell sweat, are you already on the run?
I don’t mean to hold you, but I kinda wish I’d told you
That I wanna leave this place as bad as you do.
Star light, star bright.
Wish I may be on that flight.
My baby wants to fly.
My baby wants to fly away from me.

Advertisements

7 responses to “My babies want to fly

  1. Richard Howard

    I’m glad you charted the flight of GForce and Sheerah and Lulu, as your thoughts reminded me of your flights, especially the one from high school graduation and our family hearth to far away Williams College. I don’t recall pushing you out of the nest in so many deliberate moves, but I can appreciate your determination to fly, for whatever the reasons. And I celebrate that flight more each day I have available to me to think about it.
    I loved your observation about the length of the cord. Yes, it can’t be seen, but the other senses keep me in touch with its amazing length and resiliency. My, my, so much to appreciate! So much to celebrate!

  2. Heather Kohout

    I LOVE the picture of GForce flying of the board!!!

  3. barbara howard

    You spread your wings at a young age. My special memory is when you were “16 going on 17” and I went in your room to kiss you goodnight. As I sat on the bed you shared a particular psychic pain you carried. I still remember the anguish I felt, and I said, as I started to hold you, “Oh, Joy, I wish I could carry that pain for you.” You pushed me away and angrily said, “Stop it, Mom, this is my pain, and I’ll take care of it myself.” It was a powerful lesson for me, but I’ve admired your determination to be your very own individual self ever since. You taught me even as you flew away. But, the cord is strong and we are always connected. Mom

  4. Julie Bresson

    AAAHHHHHH… the tears are a-flowin’! I LOVE LOVE LOVE that picture of Grace. Of course, that was a few years before I had WILL at the POOL!!!

    Your girls are awesome! You and Pam are awesome! Rock on, girlies!

  5. I think there’s no one whose parenting experience I’d rather read about in the absence of my own. What a rich entry this is. Also, Pat calls me a “mama’s girl,” and I am, even as I’ve made my own way in the world, my own way.

    So even when GForce/Grace flies, if she’s like me, they’ll always be round-trips.

  6. This lovely (as always) post reminded me of another song that is much better than this painfully nineties video lets it be…

    Watch out for the unpleasantly shirtless drummer.
    And thanks for writin’.

  7. i don’t know what i’d do w/out your posts. i may be gone from time to time, but whenever i get back, i kick myself for not checking daily. you are so incredibly gifted! seriously, are you working with an agent? i’m thinking of becoming one just so i can sign you so you can have a broader readership. oh, and to help you make a jillion dollars. you howards know how to pull heartstrings like no other writers i know. and i know a lot of talented wordsmiths. i’m not going to stop bugging you about this publishing thing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s