Daniel is traveling all week, and I took the girls to Princess and Superhero night at a local fast food chain for dinner tonight. When we got home, just before dusk, we saw one of the still fuzzy-headed robins in the yard hopping around, trying to fly. He could get a couple feet off the ground, and somehow managed to clear our fence, but could not sustain flight. His mother chirped incessantly from the fence post at him. We followed him and I tried to sneak up on him, tried to gently cradle him. I thought if only I were quiet enough, gentle enough, quick enough, I would be able to return him home.
My girls, still in their princess dresses, followed me around, nervous and excited. Mirabella thought maybe she wouldn’t seem as scary to the baby bird, since she was smaller. We followed him through four neighbors’ yards, across the street and back several times. We stood back as his mother plucked worms from the ground and watched her feed them to him as he hopped; we watched her try to guide him home. Oblivious, he hopped away. Mirabella prayed loudly, “Dear God, please help the robin not to be scared, and please help the Mama Robin not to be scared, and please help Mommy help him get back to his home.” As darkness closed in, her prayers became breathless, desperate.
We followed the baby across the street and up to the fence bordering the adjacent neighborhood. He hopped into some brush and I lost sight of him. It was nearly dark and Emerie started to cry. Mirabella started to lose hope: “Mommy! You have to save him!”
“I might not be able to, love,” I explained. “Sometimes, in nature, when creatures are small or weak, they cannot survive. I can’t help him if he doesn’t want me to.”
“But he thinks you’re a predator!” she cried, “What if there are real predators! His mama can’t pick him up; she won’t be able to get him back into the nest!”
I bit my lip as I watched my precious girl crying in her safety-pinned Cinderella dress and cowgirl boots, heart so big and full and wide open it might burst.
“I should have found you a butterfly net! I should have gotten it right away!” She cried. I reminded her that none of this was her fault, even as I silently lamented my inability to squelch my skittishness and snatch that frightened bird when I had several chances.
I managed to get her inside before the real sobbing started. Her sadness was so big, so raw, so real. It hurt me that I couldn’t shield her from it; that I not only couldn’t prevent it, but that I may actually have made it worse.
I went about getting Emerie ready for bed, praying about how to handle Mirabella’s sense of loss, her tender heart.
She met me on the landing, eyes swollen from crying, and thrust her picture into my hands and herself into my arms. I cried at her rendering of me, setting the baby free. I marveled over her attention to detail, even in her sadness. I mourned her heartache that I could not fix.
We sat on the steps rocking; I sang her a song I somehow remembered from elementary school about a dying sparrow. I touched her chest and looked into her eyes and told her I was proud of her.
“You have a big, giant, soft and loving heart. You love all people and creatures and you never want to see them hurt or sad or scared. And it’s my favorite thing about you. Sometimes, it means that a lot of things can hurt your big, soft heart. But it makes you so special and wonderful,” I told her.
She fretted over the baby bird; she tried unsuccessfully to think of anything else. She worried its mother wouldn’t be able to help it; that it would be scared and sad and, ultimately, that it would die. She mourned it, and that she couldn’t protect it. I felt the same way.
We read Luke 12:6,“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.” She prayed for the robin’s safety and that she might dream of finding it and helping it get home.
I asked Mirabella if there was anything about this night that she could find to be thankful for. She said she was thankful for being able to see a baby robin so close up. She was thankful the robin family still has two babies to love.
I am thankful to be able to hold and comfort my own babies, safe in our nest for now, even as hurts too big for me to prevent or soothe loom.