For the birds

Philip is a terrible bird watcher.

While the rest of the group advances along the path, my son plops down in the middle of the trail to play with rocks.

2-rock head

It’s a gorgeous day for this bird walk, one of many activities available as part of a local “Wildlife Weekend.” I had a choice between six sites participating in the annual event. After looking at the program options, I selected this hike.

Now doubt chirps in my brain.

He’s not even looking at the birds.

Doubt whispered to me as we assembled for the two-mile hike. I wasn’t concerned about the distance. If there’s one thing that my four-year-old has, it’s stamina.  Instead, I was intimidated by the obvious preparation of the others, many of whom are carrying binoculars.

You don’t belong here.

Once we begin, the leader stops us almost immediately. He directs our gaze across the pond. He rattles off the names of several kinds of birds, but I only recognize “goose.” Many of the others are writing things down in their notebooks.

Philip is picking a weed.

You should just leave now, crows the voice. You don’t know what this guy is talking about.

I pull Philip along as we continue down the trail. The leader stops us again, pointing to the pines on our left.  He names another bird and says, “If we are still and quiet, you can hear it.”

Philip is a hummingbird beside me. He rocks and vocalizes, he kicks at the gravel with his boots. He does not do “still and quiet” on command.

What kind of mother are you? doubt squawks. Can’t you keep your child quiet?

I’m feeling guilty, convinced one of the other hikers has cast a look our way. I don’t make Philip stand up and move with the rest of the group when they walk on this time. Instead, I let a gap developed between us. I no longer hear what the guide is saying.

4 watchers

Philip is building a mound of leaves and sticks.

Just turn around, doubt urges.

5 leaves

Suddenly, I hear a new voice. One of the other walkers has slowed to look at mushrooms. He nods to Philip and says, “He’s having a ball.”

I look down at Philip, his fingers caked in mud, his cheeks ruddy from running and skipping, his eyes bright with happiness.

“Yes,” I agree. “He’s not really interested in the birds, but he sure is having fun.”

“That’s all that counts,” says the wise owl as he walks back to the group.

I think about why I brought Philip here today: to get some exercise, to spend time in nature, to enjoy the pleasant weather.

To have fun.

I snap.

I flip the bird to doubt and tell it, “Shut the hell up!”

In the silence that follows I can hear the bird song filling the woods. I may not be able to identify the sources, but I can still enjoy the tunes.

Philip isn’t interested in the music or the birds making it, but that’s okay. We are here together, each enjoying the hike in our own way.

3-looking

Yes, that’s all that counts. Everything else is for the birds.

21 thoughts on “For the birds

  1. Perfection here. I love the use of “flipped the bird.” I’d bird watch with Philip anyday. I think it’s so cool that you are open to these experiences….I keep my kids on the same tired old loop, doing the same old stuff. Bird watching…what’s just sublime. Love the pictures.

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    1. The very next day we went to a bird sanctuary, and Philip loved the song bird aviary (as did I). When the birds were up close, he was much more interested in looking at them. They even landed close enough to touch. That’s the key-he likes his activities to be hands on.

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  2. One of things I learned FAST about parenting, especially when you have a child/children on the spectrum, was that you’ve got to flip the bird to doubt! 🙂
    I’m so glad you ended up staying and having a great time!!

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  3. Aww what a sweet outcome. I figured this at a very early age of my little one. I would try to “get her to play with other kids, and most kids doing great and she was just not into it”. She let me know she made her own choices so as much as I tried not to limit my social life because of it, I just went with it. I enjoyed as much as I could her babyhood in her own way. There, the two of us. Yes, I was sad and disappointed at first but I could stare at her having un and that was all that mattered.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog,

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  4. When my two were small, they were a handful. Especially my oldest. I can remember being a young mom and worrying about the opinions of others – then one day like you I realized the opinion of my kids was more important.

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  5. Yes! A reminder to enjoy life in your own way; not following the path of others, but creating your own and cherishing every moment. Cynk, this is a beautiful piece. I have tears in my eyes.

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  6. This is why I love taking walks with toddlers. We might not even get a whole block from home, but they’ve explored everything they see to the fullest. Yay for a great hike!

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