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Birds were made to fly: your children have wings

Birds were made to fly

On my back deck is a birds nest.  The birds nest is empty. A bird  made the nest out of dried grass and mud. She laid her eggs in the nest, sat on the eggs and raised her babies. She fed her babies and kept them warm until they grew feathers.

The mother bird taught her babies to fly. Then the babies flew away and left the nest.

The nest was not designed to keep the baby birds forever.

Tomorrow my nest will have one less bird in it.

My oldest daughter is going to spend her summer in another state.  She bought a one way ticket to California. Some time later this summer she will buy a return ticket back to Pennsylvania.

People have asked me how I feel about her leaving.

“How do you feel about her leaving?”

“Are you okay with her going?”

“How are you holding up?”

The underlying thread of the questions is that I should feel sad or not approve of her leaving. At least, I think they is what is implied. I usually say, “I am holding up fine.  No problem. Great idea.”

And then I wonder why people ask me what I think about her leaving. Am I missing something? Am I a  bad mother for being excited she gets to spend her summer living by the ocean? Am I a bad mother because I want her to live her own life, even if it means I won’t see her as often? Maybe once a year?

I am the mother who hitchhiked through Israel, lived on a kibbutz, flew to Tokyo on a one way ticket and then stayed seven years. My life has been full of adventure. The last eighteen years I have been teaching my children to fly. They have wings and I want them to use them.

Birds were made to fly.

I want her to fly. I want her to leave the nest. I want her to have a life filled with adventure.

I have  heard the expression “the empty nest” before. Women are  sad when their children leave home. They are sad  when their children move to another state or a different town. Lamenting the loss.

Birds were made to fly: your children have wings

Your children may move to another country. They may marry and move to another state. Your child may never live in the same city as you again.

There are no promises that your child will buy a house in the city you live in. There are no promises you will see your grandchildren every day.

My daughter’s life is her own. She is free to follow her dreams.

However. The nest she is leaving will always be her home.

Good parents give their children Roots and Wings. Roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught them.”
-– Jonas Salk

She can keep her house key. My home is always hers to come home to.

Do you have an empty nest? Have your birds flown away?

Please let me know in the comments. I would love to chat.



About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • Berdeane Bodley

    Hi Pamie, here I sit crying after reading about “birds that fly”, “my bird” flew away all those years ago because that is exactly how we raised you, it was hard & it still is even after all these years & it is especially hard having you living in another country, our countries are close & so much alike but one would never know that for all the rules & regulations, making it very difficult to go from one country to the other, thank goodness for emails, at least we can talk daily. I love you “butternose”

  • Robin Patrick

    I agree with almost everything you wrote. However, even though I get the idea of birds flying/children have wings, I know that kids AREN’T birds!

    When my children were babies I knew that they would leave our home someday and I started preparing myself right then. I wanted them to be excited about their futures, to learn life coping skills and be able to support themselves. I also wanted them to know I was excited for them.

    Fast forward to Ian’s leaving home. He’d worked hard, was in college, had a job, got an apartment and all was hunky dory. So why did I take to my bed sobbing as I heard the car pull out from the driveway? So much for preparing myself. I missed my son so much because I loved and liked my son. I loved watching him do his thing in his unique style. It was a long time before I adjusted to his leaving. As the next two left our home to make their own home it never got easier for me. I was thrilled for them and never let them know how gut wrenching it was for me, but I’m not ashamed I felt that way.

    My differing thought is that before each one left they were, not surprisingly, at different stages of maturity. Somehow I thought each one would hit that perfect spot in life where they and I would know it was the perfect time for them to “fly the nest” and journey on. Just as they were unique in their growing up years they were unique in their style of leaving and I found my parenting role, yet again, to be different with each one. For one it was to applaud their plans and wave as they left. For another it was to ask questions so they could think it through better and maybe set a wiser time for their initial solo flight to allow for success. For another it was to push harder and encourage and equip and listen and, frankly, to have patience while their confidence grew.

    So for me, it’s not about birds, it’s about people and a one size fits all nudge wasn’t my experience. It would have been a whole lot easier for me if that had been the case but some of my children needed me to continue teaching as they flew away. And once they took off my new job was to say, “I knew you could do it!’

    • I am delighted that my children are not actually birds. I don’t think they would have wanted to eat worms and I wouldn’t want to carry worms in my mouth to feed them.
      As easily as I say I know she will leave and have adventures, I still miss her laughter and her company.
      She can feed herself, she knows how to read and ask questions. She will find a job and be on time for work.
      I will always love my oldest who ventured out first. I just have a new job. And I will say like you did, “I knew you could do it.”
      Thank you for telling me about your experiences when your children left. Crying is a good thing.
      I will try that later this summer.

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  • Elsie

    You are a wise mother to remember your days of flying and allow your daughter to experience life on her own. When children are your life one has a harder time adjusting to their departure. Parents need to live a life alongside their children, not make it their only reason for living. Besides, technology makes it so much easier to communicate nowadays.

    • Elsie, you are so wise. My daughter is my life, but not the only part of it. Living alongside, I like that.
      Technology will help. I won’t have to wait for a letter for old news.

  • Jeez, I wish I felt like you. I have dreaded the day they would leave since they were born. When I became a mom, I finally understood joy for the first time. I know I will be excited for them to grow and live their own lives, and I certainly have my own life that will be rich and full. But it will feel so empty I fear. I couldn’t wait to leave my own state growing up in SoCal. Now, I suffer to be so far from my family. Missing every family event, every bbq, birthday and holiday. I am thankful for my little family, of course, but I regret running so far from my mother. Now I rarely get back to her…

    • I understand missing your family. My mother is in Canada and the last time I saw her was three years ago.
      My daughter hasn’t left yet, so I don’t know what it will really feel like. Is is possible to be happy and sad at the same time?

  • Our nest has been empty for quite some time. As each child learned to fly, some of them faltered and returned for a short while. It was never for long. They grew stronger, got their bearings, and off they went. Each of them to a life of their own. Now, they are preparing their little birds to fly. Only one of my children lives close, if you call 5.5 hours away, close. They have flown from our home, they will never fly from our heart.

    • Shelley I like that thought. Our children never fly from our heart.

  • margaret simon

    Pam, when my first child graduated from high school, we took a family trip to San Francisco. One early morning, I went alone to Grace Cathedral and walked the labyrinth. If you’ve never walked a labyrinth, you walk in with an intention and usually emerge with direction. My intention was my child is leaving. My direction, whispered in my ear on the way out of the maze, was “She is not leaving you!” I will never forget that. I also cannot tell it without getting choked up, so close to my heart. I now have had 3 daughters leave the nest. One is back. And it remains true… We are still their home.

    • Thank you Margaret for your sharing your story. I didn’t think I would cry today, but I am. Oh dear. You are right, she is not leaving me. She is just leaving.

      • margaret simon

        Tears are OK as long as you are still letting her fly. Tears will show her that you love her. Nothing wrong with that!

  • Birds were absolutely made to leave the nest and fly. It is so sad to me that today many young people are staying at home up through their thirties, unable to cut the tie that binds. It was never meant to be this way. I am so sure your daughter will fly beautifully and soar high. Good for you for trusting in her.

    • Thank you Kathleen. She has wings and isn’t afraid to use them. I may cry, but not today.

    • Even not looking forward to it, as I see my girls become their own young woman, I know it feels like it will be time. I think it is crazy all the kids living at home still. Pamela you inspire me, keep it coming. I would love to read about preparing mentally for the empty nest. The funny thing is, they are/have become the exact type of people we raised them to be. Independent. I dont understand my fear, except that our family life is happy and full of life as four, Can’t imagine as three, one leg gone, then two, just a wobbly couple again. My husband on the other hand, feels differently than I 🙂