|Pretty sure I could draw a lot of metaphors between this broken nest and my life right here...but I'm too tired.|
This isn't one of those days where I feel like I've got parenting down. My mom came to town for a brief visit. She brought the kids a treasure that was found in her neighbor's yard during construction. A tiny bird nest with two eggs in it. Roo immediately felt that the nest should live in her room, and nagged at me until I allowed her to stash it in a small wooden box. Finally relenting, I instructed her to place it on a high shelf in her closet, out of reach of her 4-year-old little brother.
Not even an hour after my mom's departure, I hear the classic, "I'm gonna tell Mom!" Of course a four year old can't leave such a curiosity undisturbed in his sister's closet when Grandma gave the nest to both of them. And so I entered the room to find a nest with two tiny crushed eggs.
I don't think I've ever been so angry at either of them. I was angry at Roo for being so insistent on having the nest in her room, when I told her it was a bad idea. I was angry at Little Brother for taking the nest out of the closet without asking anyone for help or permission. I was pissed at myself for failing to convey the importance of this gift to my children. I felt terrible that something so unique was ruined so quickly in my house. I felt like if I was a better parent, I would have done a better job of making them understand that a gift like this can't be replaced by Amazon. Of treating such a gift with care.
So... I yelled a bunch. I put them both in their rooms and slammed the doors. Little Brother cried and fell asleep. He hasn't had much experience with being in "big trouble." Roo, who at 10 is much more experienced with "big trouble," and who obviously understood the uniqueness of the nest enough to want to hoard it in her room for herself, cried a little too. And I collapsed on the couch and cried the kind of massive hiccoughing sobs that leave a horrible cry-hangover headache to remember them by when they go. While rage-texting Jerry about the life choices that have brought me to this point, which in my crazed state of mind were obviously all the wrong life choices, and maybe if I had made different/better choices I would have children who appreciated and understood things inherently without needing me, the failed parent, to teach them. That makes sense, right.
I find it so hard in situations where I recognize that I need to teach my children a life lesson. I mean, how mad should I be at them? How can I make sure I get the lesson translated in a way they will remember and understand? On the scale of screw-ups in childhood, this is pretty low and accidental (although careless), right?
Yet... I feel like something of great value was lost with those little crushed eggs. I felt grief well up inside me and start to spill over. I grieve those little eggs and the baby birds they will never be and the delicate boxed treasure they will never be. I wondered if I actually could order "replacement" eggs on Amazon, but stopped short of searching it because how screwed up would that be?! I think I really need them to know that those eggs aren't replaceable. Do regular parents feel like this? Parents who don't have a dead child, I mean. Parents who never stare at their 27-weeks pregnant belly at 0300 when they should be sleeping and they have to be up to work a 12-hour ER shift in three hours, but they can't because they are wondering if this 27-week fetus could breathe if it had to come out now. Because the first one couldn't. Those parents. Do they have crises of conscience when their children wreck an abandoned bird's nest treasure in their innocent-but-careless curiosity?
I just don't know, and I guess I never will.
After I knew Little Brother was asleep, I sneaked into his room. Stepped around the Legos and pulled back the covers he had tucked over his little blond head. I stared at his freckles and long eyelashes, and I felt my heart turn to mush like any "normal" parent's would. I opened the door to Roo's room to find her staring up at the ceiling. I hugged her. I couldn't find any words to say so I said nothing. I took her to the kitchen and fixed her a snack. She didn't say anything either.