Denise Snodell — A mother ponders the emptying nest

05/22/2014 1:16 PM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

I don’t know the life span of a robin, but it looks like every spring the same mama bird sets up shop on a supporting beam beneath my raised deck.

This feathered creature might be a little wacky. Year after year, she starts a nest on one section of the wide beam, then stops, leaving a willy-nilly pile of twigs and shredded grass. Then, she finds another spot few feet over, gets halfway through until it seems she second-guesses her plan. She keeps moving down the beam, leaving a curious trail. By the third or fourth try, she nails it: A complete nest. It’s always tidy and professional looking. In human terms, I’d say she decorates with mid-century Scandinavian flair.

Every May, I look up at the beam and see several messed up nesting attempts beside her final good job. She’s always there, warming her eggs until one day there’s sudden burst of activity. Her hungry babies require constant trips to the worm store. For a good span, she’s all to and fro, flapping her wings and feeding her brood like a maniac.

The whole scene is always sweet, but I especially love the nutso remnants of her MOM FAIL nests. Again, in human terms, I would say these are her stacks of fabric swatches, paint chips, planning calendars and endless piles of to-do lists.

If birds can be neurotic and panicky, my little backyard friend wins the prize. It takes one to know one.

Almost 20 years ago, I waddled into too many baby stores in search of the perfect crib. It became an obsession. A solid nursery was my starting line. I spent way too much time and money on this venture, because everything had to be PERFECT for my firstborn. I managed to find the “it” baby boutique. With a gulp, I ordered a magazine-worthy infant bed. But about a week after delivery, I noticed the side rail kept getting stuck. Our shmancy crib was off-kilter.

Long story short. The store manager came to my house, all huffy and judge-y. Somehow she insulted me, but I can’t remember the details. I know I cried after she left. But I was right. The woman could not deny the model I ordered was messed up. Back to the store it went.

I found another crib elsewhere at a more reasonable price. It worked just fine for my two boys, who are 16 months apart. Little did I know the failed bedding search was only the beginning of maternal nervousness about — everything.

Since then, here’s a smattering of what has happened: Diapers. Drool. Vaccines. Onesies. Toothless grins. Crawling. Walking. Thomas the Train. Birthday candles. Fevers. Preschool. Swimming lessons. Kindergarten. Crayons. Legos. Two-wheelers. Helmets. Skinned knees. Christmas trees. Backpacks. Harry Potter. Cub scouts. Sunscreen. Basketball. Field trips. Bug spray. Sleepovers. Music lessons. Middle school. Action movies. Bike crash. Ambulance ride. Theme parks. Far away camp. Teary letters home. Canoes. Poison ivy. Eagle Scouts. Broken Leg. ER docs. Super Mario Somethin’-Somethin’. Laptops. High school. Cell phones. Driving lessons. Teen angst. Curfews. Pizza deliveries. SATs. ACTs. College visits. Family jokes. Essays. Graduation. Orientation. Dorm drop-off.

Wait. Stop. The last two items on that whoosh list have not yet happened for my youngest. But they will in less than three months. This is it. The empty you-know-what.

Like that robin under my deck, I tried my best, but always with a side order of frantic. I look at my sons, and maybe I’m biased, but I believe they turned out way more than OK. I think my husband and I are very lucky. Our guys must have been pre-wired to be who they are. One is soaring. The other is about to. I didn’t do anything spectacular. I was never PTO president. I don’t have a signature lasagna dish. I never did “Lean In” a la Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg.

I simply loved my little boys every single moment. Always will. The nest might soon be empty, but the heart is full.

Chirp. Chirp.

Freelancer Denise Snodell writes every other week.

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