Do Birds Cry When Their Young Fly Away?

©2007,2008,2009 Howard S. Modell. All Rights Reserved.

As I write this, it is during the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the period of between the start of the Jewish year and the Day of Atonement when He Who Cannot Be Named concludes judging us for the sins of the year past. It is traditionally a time of contemplation, of looking back over the year past and thinking about where you are now and where you want to be going.

By coincidence of calendar, it is also my Anniversary with the company I currently work for. I am a few years shy of being here 20 years. Another reason to be contemplative, to look backwards and forwards in Time.

I hit another decennial birthday this year ... another decade passed. More reason to meditate.

However, the real reason I'm wrestling with the Ghosts of my Past this way is that my only child is now in College. Having finally gotten comfortable in the role of Active Parent (it took most of the past 18 years :-) ), now "all of a sudden" I find I have to change my perspective again, this time to Semi-active Parent. Oh, I know I'll remain "Daddy" forever ... but somehow, it's not quite the same anymore.

Do birds cry when they see their young flying away from the nest? Do any of the chordate animals feel the joy of seeing fresh eggs in the nest or newborn babies in the den? Or, is this one of those things that truly separates us from the rest of the Animal Kingdom? Are we the only animal that is so Time-conscious that we fully understand the value of the children we bring into the world? I've seen photographs and movies showing that at least some of the other living things we share this planet with demonstrate "parental behavior". Do any of them have even some of the ability to enjoy their young while they have them, and do any of them experience the ache of separation when they grow up? I don't know. giraffe mother and child
yellow rose I remember the day that my wife told me that she was expecting. There are very few other things that can make you feel that joyful. I had a dozen roses sent to her at work. Yellow roses, as it happens, because I knew she liked them. I remember her amusement while telling me of the comments of some of her co-workers, as in the "language of flowers" yellow roses are supposed to be a request for forgiveness and an admission that the sender "has strayed". It didn't matter to us, other than for its amusement value.
my child Over the years, we had our share of Joys and Terrors (only a few, none of them with a bad ending). We've watched our child as she's grown from a precocious, cute toddler to a pretty young lady generally at the top of her class. We've watched her explore her talents, k'velled with pride at her achievements, and sympathized always when things Didn't Go Her Way. As much as we've delighted in the occasions when we've seen that some of what we taught her "took", I hope we've also succeeded in giving her the room to "rebel" and find her own way.

For now, the ache of separation is mitigated by knowing that it's only partial, that we'll get to see her on visits home or visits to school. Thanks to technology that I think my parents (may they rest in peace) would envy us for, we can also keep in touch with her across the 'net. If ever I find myself inclined to become a Luddite, this alone would stop me.

How ever did our parents, grandparents, and so on stand it?

For all of that, I also know in my heart and in my mind that this is the waning years of another big segment of my life. Just as a child's birth is a Great Divide, halving one's life into two very, very different Cosmos, so too is this period the foothills of another Great Divide, separating Parenthood from ... what? My life Before Child seems like it happened to someone else; the long Post Child period ahead feels like it ought to happen to someone else.

I think that's why we start looking forward to the possibility of eventually being Grandparents. It's a way of recapturing some of that Joy that came with just holding a small, sleeping or squirming body, and surrounding it with Love. I don't know when or if that next stage will occur, but if it does come about, I think it will find me ready for it.