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Room to err

This morning as I sat in my usual chair drinking my usual coffee I heard a most unusual flapping and splashing. Last night we had watched as one of the baby robins left the nest under our deck and tried his wings rather clumsily in the wide outer world and I thought to myself at the time what a good thing it was that he had not fallen in the kiddie pool just outside the window, but I didn't empty the pool, so when I heard the quiet splashing this morning I knew what had happened and the words that escaped my lips as I dashed out the back door are probably not to be repeated in kind company.

Rescuing that precious baby was not as hard as I thought. The pool being close to the wood pile I just reached over for a board, gently pushed it under his struggling feet, and lifted him safely out onto the ground. I left him in the sunshine and watched him from the window, at first shivering, then eventually calling to his parents, who showed up with breakfast. Calvin had watched the rescue from the window, and we both went through the day with a feeling of exuberance over this deed done for babies (our babies because they have lived under our deck, after all).

I didn't bother the baby with the camera at the time of the incident—enough trauma is enough—but he returned to the deck later in the evening. As soon as he'd hopped off this morning I'd emptied the pool, so drowning was no longer a concern, but the parents were now worried about our physical presence and as we rounded up toys from the yard she sat on our feeder hook and chipped at us to let us know she meant about as much business as a mama robin can mean.

Mothering is a tough job. From the moment children are born, be they robins or humans, they are preparing to leave the nest. You feed them and clothe them and try to keep them safe, but your job is to keep strangers at bay while they learn to fly, and fail, and try again; Your job is to bandage the knees, not to stop them from falling while they learn to run or ride a bike. That mother robin knew that. She knew that her job was to trust her baby to learn. It's part of her instinct.

Tonight we took a family walk and stopped by the park. Following the rain that finally relieved our parched grounds the air was cooler and less oppressive, and the sun was just peaking from around the retreating storm clouds. In the park Calvin gained the new skill of sliding down the fire pole without assistance. Watching from the sidelines is hard. Jon was there to help, but from a respectful two steps away, and I could see his arm muscles flex every time Calvin's feet left the structure and swung out into space to grab the pole (and my own arms jumped each time, too). Jon was ready to help if needed, but he was trusting the boy to know his own limitations, to learn the skill on his own. I think he is so much better at stepping back than I am. 

Jon and I have always tried to base our parenting and teaching philosophy on trust. We give Calvin choices and allow him to make decisions, giving him room to celebrate the good ones and learn from the bad ones. But it's not always easy. Assessing physical situations or dangers and providing appropriate support is one thing, but non-physical situations are more difficult to judge. Lately I feel like, when I give him choices, I end up pressuring him toward the one that I think is clearly right, and that is not environment I want to create for him. I need to provide support from one more step back, giving him room to err or to triumph and the space in which to assess things for himself. Like the mother robin I need to trust that learning and growing is entirely natural, and so are mistakes.

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