Saturday, August 3, 2013

Fully fledged

In the life of a young bird, there comes a stage when it gets its flying feathers. Over time, the baby fuzz is replaced by firm feathers - including wing feathers that will be rigid enough to ride on air currents and support the weight of the bird. 

Until that happens, the baby bird spends more and more of its time - still in its nest - flapping its wings, exercising those muscles. Yet it still can't sustain flight. During the stage in which the adult feathers grow in, the bird is said to "fledge," and when there is no more fuzz, it is called full-fledged, or fully fledged. 

Sometimes a bird, even though it's been practicing in the nest and has even managed to lift itself up into the air a bit, still seems to want to stay in the nest; perhaps it is afraid of falling. Eventually, the baby fuzz that's been falling out will blow away from the nest and the rough sticks get more and more uncomfortable. 

Thanks to Jeff Ratcliffe at for his
photo, "Eagle In Flight"

Before long, the desire to leave the safety of the nest is stronger than the fear of falling - and the bird takes that leap of faith into the invisible, making short flights to the ground, up to branches (or in the case of an eagle, rock ledges), landing on neighboring trees or other suitable perches. At this point, it doesn't leave the protection of its parents but continues to learn to use its wings and to feed itself by watching its mother and father. It only takes a few weeks to learn these skills. Many birds do maintain that family relationship. The family group is a great source of security. And some - just fly away to establish their own territory.

I guess that lately, I've been going through that transition period where the young one has left the nest but is still somewhat dependent, learning all she can to be self-sufficient, strengthening her wing muscles. It's a thrilling but frightening time (for both of us!) and both my daughter and I have been learning a lot from the experience. So far, she's traveled across the country nearly to the other side, lived in someone's car (with them and later with their permission), found a job, faced transportation issues to and from work, shopped for a second-hand car, hunted for an apartment, ... and the list is ongoing. While she's been having all these experiences thousands of miles away, my heart has been traveling with her, praying for her, supporting her, talking her down when she's upset, suggesting options when she's been out of her depth. I even talked her through preparing a chicken dinner for a lady who let her stay with her the first of this week! (And I'm not sure who was more pleased with the results - her or me!)

As someone in recovery from control-freaking and from obsessive care-taking, there's a fine line between letting go and abandonment, just as there is between being there for my child and trying to make her choices for her. It truly is a process where I, like she was when she was in my nest, have been growing my own feathers. 

I can see the day quickly approaching where she will have learned enough to be able to be self-sufficient. I am so proud of all that she has accomplished so far, and I believe in her ability to make it on her own. It's a process for her and it's a process for me too. As I support her in this transition while slowly letting go and allowing her to make her own choices and reap her own consequences, I grow another feather myself. 

And yes, I've been doing a lot of flapping, even some short hovers, and - admittedly - a fair bit of squawking. ;) 

Before long though, I'll make that leap myself - out into the unknown - and find that the invisible is strong enough to carry me too.

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