Friday, November 13, 2009

An apology to the mother in France, whom I judged 15 years ago...(and to a flock of cedar waxwings)

Many years ago, pre-kids, D and I were in a beautiful open square in Paris. We were sitting on the edge of a water fountain eating brie and bread, watching families as they strolled around.

A cute child of about 2 was interested in a large flock of pigeons as they strutted around and pecked at the gravel on the street. Without warning, the child suddenly screamed and rushed at the pigeons, then laughed riotously as they took to the air, an explosion of feathers and flapping.

After a few minutes,the birds settled again and resumed their pecking and strutting. And then, the child gave a repeat performance: screaming and running toward them as fast as he could. The pigeons, in a flurry, took off again.

I remember feeling totally appalled that a mother would allow her kid to treat animals that way. Scaring the pigeons, stressing them out for his own amusement? WTF? I cried to D, outraged. (Disclaimer: I was a bit of a vehement animal rights activist back then)

And then, I did what all women do before they have kids. I swore that when I had kids I would never....

Fast forward 15 (yes, 15 years)I am remembering this incident because just last week, we were frolicking in the mid-day sunshine at a nearby park. We found ourselves lucky enough to be near a tree where there was a flock of cedar waxwings perched, gorging themselves on berries to fatten up for their migration south.

My kids were enthralled. There must have been 50 birds sprinkled in the branches of a small tree bare of leaves, sporting nothing but huge red berries. They were eating them as fast as their little beaks could pick them off.

Suddenly, (you saw this one coming) J screamed and ran as fast as he could toward the tree, waving his arms and yelling. The birds left the tree as if they were one single creature, taking off from the branches, swirling through the air, then returning to the same tree. The kids and I stood, mesmerized. I forgot all about "correcting" J for yelling at the birds- what we were witnessing was so beautiful.

Once the birds had become comfortable, J did it again! He screamed, ran toward the birds, and off they fluttered. In short order, they came back. Honestly, it was fascinating to watch the birds fly together like a ribbon in the air, and then return, minutes later. More fascinating was watching my children as they saw their actions have immediate effects on wild animals. Watching them realize, "Hey, I have power! I can make things happen!" And most importantly, watching them, completely thrilled and captivated by the fluid motion of birds. Excited by animals and how they react to things.

Sorry, lady in France, wherever you are. I get it now.

PS: The birds, I'm quite sure, are fine. The noise my kids created was minimal compared with what these urban guys deal with every day. And I really don't think the stress created by a couple of yells was enough to do any real damage.

1 comment:

  1. I can see the wee waxlings laying on wee couches telling their owl psychiatrists about their traumas and how they just can't sleep at night any more. . .

    ah, to be a bird.

    I'm sure they weren't threatened at all by a small grounded boy, however vocal. :) After all, they kept coming back!