Reassurance with Trepidation — by Robin

A friend of mine raised a question this week that immediately resonated with me.

She is having marital challenges and finds herself feeling the need to reassure her young son that all will ultimately be ok, in the face of her own deep letdown and insecurity. Understandably so, under the circumstances, she is very hurt by a man she had planned to spend her life with and who she relied on to be a strong, constant presence in her son’s life. Now, the future seems uncertain, and she’s digging deep to find an inner strength powerful enough for two…both her and her son.

Not only do I feel for her, but I “got” it. I truly did.

Totally different set of circumstances, but I, too, found myself as a mom, working hard to offer reassurance to my son despite my own trepidation.

I grew up with parakeets. At one time, we had three in my childhood home. Parry, Polly and Corky. They were green, blue and yellow. I remember them like it was yesterday…especially the story of how my mom valiantly captured Corky at a local supermarket during a shopping trip. He must have flown the coop from his owner’s cage in the neighborhood, and my mother and others bird lovers hunted him down, and mom was the victor, bringing him home in a paper bag. I thought it was so heroic.

Ultimately, one by one they passed away, not to be replaced.

When I got married, Marc and I bought a parakeet of our own. We named her Chiffon because she looked like the white and yellow of lemon chiffon pie. Or, perhaps it was meringue? But, Chiffon sounded better.

I adored her, but 5 years ago, she passed away, and my heart was broken.

Seth was very young then, though he swears he remembers and misses her. We do have photos in the house, and I vividly recall how she used to land on the tray of his high chair, as he’d swat at her with delight, and she hopped away from his attempt to grab hold of her.

After years of knowing that no bird would be the same…I used to call her a “little person with feathers…” I decided I had room in my heart for another. I was ready. Seth would have preferred a dog or cat, but since we weren’t going to go there, we opted for a larger bird. Something bigger than a parakeet, but not as large or pricey as an Amazon Parrot.

Hence, we are now the proud owners of Smokey the Cockatiel. Or Smokes, as Seth has dubbed him/her. We think it’s a girl, but we’re not sure. She’s 5 months old and is yellow with patches of smokey grey, hence her name.

It was exciting picking her out in the pet store. Quite unnerving bringing her home in a dark cardboard box for a car ride that felt like a lifetime. I kept imagining that the poor thing must have been terrified. Every now ‘n then, we heard a small thud in the box. I presumed it was her attempt to break free.

We speedily prepared her cage and let her out of the box into her new home. And, she freaked out. One minute she looked like a frozen deer in headlights. The next she was fluttering about wildly. Afraid she was going to hurt herself, I took her out of the cage. She made a hissing sound and pecked my hand…luckily I’m not afraid of being bitten. But, I felt so badly. What would it take to get her to trust us? And, how long would the process be? Can you imagine how she must feel? One minute she’s in a cage with birds like herself and the next she’s living in a strange cage all alone with people she doesn’t know staring at her and talking to her.

I want her to love us. We already love her.

Seth kept asking me if Smokey was ok? I believed she was, but there was a little girl inside of me who was fearful knowing that I have no experience with a Cockatiel, and questioned what I was thinking getting a larger bird like this? Couldn’t I just remain within my comfort zone and stick to another parakeet?

An even louder voice was screaming at me to believe in myself and our ability as a family to care for and endear this bird to us. As the matriarch, I am the one to assure both Seth and my husband that we made the right choice here. That we’ll enjoy Smokey, and she’ll enjoy us. And, that we will conquer Cockatiel territory, if we do our homework and have patience.

But, it made me realize, that just because someone is a grown-up, doesn’t mean they have all the answers. And, as a mom, we have our moments of uncertainty just like anyone. But, to our children, we strive to be the ever present hero, so that if they’re not feeling so brave or confident, we instill in them a sense of peace as we endeavor to navigate new ground together. But who makes us feel brave? How can we do that for ourselves? We can’t always look to others even if they offer support. As they say, sometimes it’s an “inside” job.” And, maybe we’re stronger than we admit?!

Smokey made me think back to bringing Seth home from the hospital. That was 7 years ago, and I’m no longer that same novice mom. I still have my days of self doubt. I’m sure I always will. But, just as with Seth, I trust that one day I will feel like caring for a Cockatiel is within my comfort zone, or at least relatively speaking.

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