High on a ledge on a building in downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a pair of peregrine falcons have been raising a brood of young ones. They have been doing this for several years. As of today, there are four young birds in the nest. The birds are gangly and bumbling, spending their time between bobbing awkwardly from one end of the nest to the other, sleeping in weird sprawled-out positions, or very occasionally, gulping tasty morsels of flesh from freshly-caught birds.
The Department of Environmental Protection has installed cameras, giving any interested observers a front-row seat to the workings of raising a falcon family.
I am learning some lessons from these peregrines.
Patience – Most of the time, their life is boring. For weeks, the parents took turns sitting on the nest to keep the eggs warm. They would regularly turn the eggs with their claws. They would replace each other frequently, communicating with an odd series of screeches. And now that the babies have hatched, it is another long series of weeks and months consisting mostly of watching the babies sleep. Of course, the babies are incrementally growing, but there is nothing exciting about that. It’s like watching the pot, waiting for the water to boil.
The same is true for human parenting. We need patience. We give each other breaks. We communicate. We watch our babies sleep and, ever so slowly, grow.
Beauty – The babies are cute but also homely. The parents sit on the ledge, ever so sleek and beautiful. The wings are perfectly shaped to enable them to swoop and dive faster than any bird on earth. If you look closely, you can see that the baby wings have the same basic shape, but at this point those wings are down-covered, ugly, and basically useless. But the ugliness of the babies does not disturb the parents in the least. The babies are growing at just the right pace. And they will one day be mature, just like the parents, fully capable of everything that a falcon should be able to do. Just not yet…
The same is true for our children. The fact that they are not yet mature should not be considered to be a flaw. They will one day grow up, and do all of the things that strong healthy adults are capable of doing. Meanwhile, we love them for who they are, and we don’t get stressed because they aren’t grown up yet. They are perfect children (not adults).
Protection – One of the main jobs of a peregrine falcon is to protect the babies. Even before the eggs were hatched, any intruder was met with a furious assault from a fully grown, sharply-taloned peregrine falcon with nothing to lose! Woe be to any innocent bird that unknowingly strayed within the vicinity of the falcon nest. And now, it is rare for the babies to be unattended. The parents are nearby, monitoring the nest to be sure that the little ones do not bob out of the nest and fall to their deaths.
That is our job as parents also. We are called to protect our children from harm and death. Our children are not always aware of the dangers that the world poses to them. They have not seen what we’ve seen. And they are not capable of protecting themselves as well as a mature adult is able to. So our main goal, while our children progress through all the stages of childhood and youth, is to keep them alive and safe.
And that is just a few of the lessons from the peregrine falcons. Maybe you will enjoy watching them also. And maybe you will learn something different from what I have.