Monday, June 11, 2012

Bird Parenting

We as humans have a lot to learn from birds. The power of flight, the larger picture perspective, the physicality and maybe 'emotionality' of surviving harsh circumstances and the fact that men have to impress the women! Above all, what impresses me most is the way birds parent. We all know that the selection of a perfect mate is a big deal with animals and so with birds. The male always has to impress the female, among other contenders, be it through their physical appearance, strength, agility or some special skill! Finally, the female selects the father to be and the wait begins for the eggs to be laid. Meanwhile the couple hunt for a nesting ground, a safe place to lay their eggs and let them hatch, away from predators of the new born hatchlings!

Through this process, one notices certain values in birds which make them good, strong parents. It would be worthwhile to reflect if these values were to be applied to human parenting what difference it would make.

The home is where the eggs are
A bird's nest is a simple engineering marvel! Unlike modern day couples, who want a Jacuzzi in their exorbitant flats, a bird looks for safety of the nest. A firm ground, a cool setting and a safe and secure home is what a bird's nest is all about. It is going to be the abode of a family to be and that is all that matters! Humans, on the other hand, spend hours working to earn enough to build a home comfortable enough. And when the time comes for the light of children to glow, the parents hardly have the time to glow in that love... the home remains dark and soulless!

Roles are shared and fair
Birds often surprise us in the way they break human stereotypes. Male and female birds share equal roles and play both parts of being a protector and the food finder. They take turns at housekeeping, guarding their eggs, and at fending for food for the hatchlings. A fair and equal relationship between male and female. This is changing in human relationships as women have become more demanding of their husbands and many men opting to be the home maker... but the stereotypes none the less continue to exist!

Patience and perseverance
Till the eggs are hatched, a mother often spends hours going through the pains of warming her eggs. This could be compared to the 9 months that a human mother too carries her embryo... in fact much longer than birds have to do this job. 

Tend to the babies
A hatchling is often tended to by the parents with loving care. Food being fed in the mouth and parents taking turns to guard their home while the other goes shopping... are all a part of the baby bird's early days. Often there are more than one sibling to share the food with and each are at their greediest best. Sounds human! What changes is when a baby bird learns to fly!

Fend for yourself
Soon, the parents teach their birds to fly, the basic skill of survival. A hard lesson to be learnt as many young birds die in this attempt. But most fighters learn to fly in days, much quicker than a human child would take to learn to walk or swim! Soon, they are ready to fly and the unsentimental parents let them fly... away! A tough call... but often a significant one in deciding the future of the bird... and its survival. 

Human love in contrast is enabling, cocooning the child from the challenges of the real world and when the testing time comes and the now no longer children are unable to cope with the pressures of competition, work pressure, relationships and their demands, parents not only turn back on them demanding more and more, but often driving them away and oft to suicide. 

A simple formula for parenting, which was so naturally demonstrated in front of my eyes recently by a pigeon couple that built its nest in my balcony, opened my eyes! Only if I could fly!

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