Saving A Sparrow is Great For Several Reasons

Lucas and I were alone recently and we were standing by the door when all of a sudden he said, “Remember when we saved that bird?”

“I do.”

“That was pretty cool.”

“It really was, wasn’t it?”

Let me start by saying it always feels good when one of my kids remembers something we did together fondly. It is also interesting to see how they interpret events we shared together.

A couple of years ago, Gem and Dorit had gone out and again Lucas and I were spending quality time together (Daddy/Son time as we call it) one weekend morning. It was a cold, wintry day and when I looked out after my wife and daughter had left, I saw something on the ground on our porch. I went out to inspect it more closely and realized it was a sparrow.

It looked almost frozen, like it hadn’t found a warm place to sleep through the night and had become so completely chilled, it no longer was able to move.

For several minutes, Lucas and I watched it through the door, but after a while I knew something was really wrong and I went outside, lifted the bird gently into a basket full of blankets.

Lucas and I watched some more, but even after more time, our little sparrow was not moving or making any progress. That was when I brought it inside.

I placed it on the stairs, inside the basket, cuddled up in the blankets. Somehow Lucas and I got distracted by something else and by the time we returned our little sparrow was feeling much better. Well, maybe it was feeling too good.

It was perched on the basket and as I approached it, instead of thanking us for our efforts to save it, our little sparrow flew upstairs and I started to see how terribly wrong this all could go. Yeah, let’s bring this sickly little bird into our home where it can fly all over the place, wreaking havoc. It’s possible, in hindsight, that I could’ve thought it all through a tad more before I brought the bird inside.

Lucas and I ran after it upstairs and it went into the kids’ room and perched itself atop the curtains. Honestly, the thing I was most worried about was it pooping all over their room and how the heck I was going to explain that to Gem when she got home. Hi Sweetie, we saved a sickly little bird today (and got poop all over the kids’ room, by the way).

Thankfully, that didn’t happen, our recovering bird probably hadn’t eaten in a long time and spared us that…ummm…experience.

But even so, it was quite frustrating trying to shoo the bird back downstairs without hurting it or scaring it too badly since we knew it must be still pretty fragile.

Finally, we were able to get it back into the basket and take the basket outside and let our little patient fly away. When it did, Lucas and I shared a look, impressed with ourselves that we had actually saved a bird that day. What a great feeling!

Because of the way I am, I remember wondering a day or two later, when I didn’t see any dead sparrows on our property, if our little sparrow had made it. Looking back now, that is often what I feel like about parenting. We do so much for our kids, but we just don’t know how this is all going to play out. Sometimes that is quite challenging for me. I would hate to wake up in ten years and find out I’ve actually been doing something that really screwed up my kids when I didn’t mean to in any way, shape or form.

But it is moments like these, when one of my children remind me of a special experience we shared together and I can see a little of the impact I have had on their lives. It is a pretty nice feeling, the memory of our time together and the realization of what it means.

Maybe Our Weekends Are Too Good?

As I was getting ready for woke this morning, my son, now 10, came to me and was upset about not wanting to go to school. Normally, Lucas loves school so it caught me off guard a bit.

“Why don’t you want to go to school?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” was his reply.

“Is it your teacher?”

“No.”

“Are kids at school giving you a hard time?” Always my biggest fear when it comes to why he wouldn’t want to go to school.

“No.”

“Is it the Jewish Exponent?” I got a little smile from that one. He is starting to learn exponents in Math and I keep thinking about the Jewish Exponent, which was a weekly Jewish newspaper we received when I was a kid.

“No.”

Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with school?

“I just want to stay home with you guys.”

And that’s when it hit me.

It’s not that he doesn’t want to go to school; it’s that he doesn’t want our special weekends to end.

I know exactly how he feels.

This past Friday we had an absolutely lovely Shabbat dinner at our Rabbi’s house. On Saturday we had a nice day and we went out to dinner at California Pizza Kitchen and then had fun shopping at Five Below (which is not, contrary to what I had always thought, a cold weather clothing store, but actually a store where everything costs five dollars or less). On Sunday we delivered water and cleaning supplies to homes and families most affected by Hurricane Sandy on Long Island.

I explained to Lucas that when I was a little younger, before we had kids, I knew it was important for our family to spend time together, but I didn’t understand how wonderful it would feel, being surrounded by love, being with the people I most want to be with. There is no one else I’d rather be with than my wife, Lucas and his twin sister, Dorit.

Growing up, it was not like this in my family. I never particularly felt they liked me all that much and I certainly wouldn’t choose to spend time with them.

But our family feels so different.

“I think you still really like school, Lucas. I think what we need to do is have crappier weekends and that will make it easier to go back to school or work on Monday. And it starts with no Thanksgiving for you!” And we both laughed.

“But seriously, maybe what we need to do is figure out how to carry the joy of our weekends with us through the rest of the week.”

We talked a little bit more and he seemed to feel better.

As I sit here and write this, I think back to myself as a little boy, more miserable than words can accurately depict. It is not possible to imagine a “problem” like this, where my life with my family is so amazing, so fulfilling, so infusing with love and good energy that everything else would pale in comparison.

How lucky are we?

A Parental Moment

By: Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

“Daddy.”

Parents deal with many issues involving their children and most of them pretty smoothly. Unfortunately, one of the hardest issues to deal with is our children’s sleep, but these challenges often happen at the worst possible moment – in the middle of the night when we are drowsy and sleep-deprived.

“DADeeee?”

We’re supposed to make decisions on what is best for the future health of our children based on logic and our intelligence, but in the middle of the night we have not much of either of those, though we do have quite a bit of desperation, exhaustion and even some panic mixed in if we’re really lucky.

“DADeeeeee?”

I think he only called out my name a couple of times before he woke me up. I lifted my head to look at the time and then the monitor just in case it can give me some insight. It is just after 2:00am and his high pitched voice comes through crystal clear. Insight does not, apparently, get transmitted.

“DADeeeee?”

It’s Lucas, our two-year (26 month) old son. He’s been having trouble sleeping all night, as if he has been lying in bed for hours restless but unable to sleep. At one point earlier on, my wife and I thought we could hear him banging his legs on his mattress.

I smoosh my pillow to make it more comfortable because I know from experience that he very often can fall back to sleep after a minute or so. Plus, if I seem confident he will go back to sleep, my wife is less likely to worry. At least that’s what I think.

“DADeeeee, ere are oooooo?”

Apparently, not tonight. Not when he starts really talking to me.

“DADeeeee, ere are oooooo?”

I roll over onto my back and put my forearm on my forehead staring into the darkness. “Come on, little boy,” I silently urge. “Go back to sleep.” In my mind I can easily see him standing in his crib, looking at the door, waiting for me to open it and walk in. But I need to be strong. I need to not let it affect me. Going up to get him is often not the solution. Sometimes I go up right away when he cries; it all depends on how his day was and the kind of cry. Was he sick today? Out of sorts? Is it a pained cry? Or more for attention? One night I woke up to the sound of his screaming and I knew something was wrong. I raced up the stairs two at a time and burst into their room to find he had gotten his foot stuck in the bars of the crib. Tonight wasn’t even close to that cry.

“DADeeee?”

But he’s calling out my name. My name. Not “Mommy,” but “Daddy.” That fills me with a sense of pride and of pressure to figure out what is best for him.

His voice still has a sing-song quality to it so I know he is not too upset, but I want to go up and make sure he is okay anyway. I know my wife is lying next to me thinking of all of the things that could be wrong with him which only adds to the feeling of needing to handle this correctly. Does he have a fever? Is his nose bleeding? But I won’t go up – not yet. I want to give him more time to go back to sleep on his own. A little bit longer and maybe he will quiet down and at least get some rest and it will all be over, like a bad dream you vaguely remember when you wake up in the morning.

“DADeeeee, in the crib?”

I think he means he wants me to take him out of his crib.

“DADeeeee, in the crib?”

I grab my pillow and shove it up against the wall so I can sit up. I stare at the ceiling as if I can see him in the room above us. “Come on, Lucas. Just go back to sleep!”

Not only does it seem like he is not going back to sleep, but I’m getting more and more concerned that he is going to wake up his twin sister, Dorit, who is sleeping in her crib on the other side of the room. There has to be a solution, but everything I think of seems to end badly.

My wife and I go through the possible options that lay before us. If I go up and get him and Dorit wakes up, then we’ve got big problems and maybe neither of us will be able to get any more sleep. If I don’t go up he might wake her up anyway and we have the same problem. However, even if I get him and manage not to wake her up, he probably won’t go back to sleep – he’ll want to watch “shapes” (Baby Einstein’s Baby Newton) – and one of us is not going to get enough sleep tonight. Since he’s calling my name, I’m assuming that will be me and I’ve already been thinking about what needs to be done at work tomorrow and how will I do it with so few hours of rest.

But I have to do something because lying here and listening to him is like feeling something pierce my heart.

“DADeeeee, ere are ooooo?” he says once again.

“Can you turn that off?” I snap at my wife.

“DADeeee?”

Something in his voice reverberates deep in my soul. My boy is crying out for me and I’m sitting here in bed listening. What kind of father am I? What kind of message am I sending him? “I’m here whenever you need me, Lucas. Except, of course, if you are crying during all of the time I am at work or when it’s late at night and you feel all alone in your room. Otherwise, I’m here for you, my boy.” When he cries out, shouldn’t I respond right away no matter the reason? Even if that is not what he, or I, need in the long run (i.e.: the rest of the night)?

Even without the monitor I can still hear him. At least I think I can still hear him and he is getting more and more upset, but I can’t tell if that’s him or I’m just imagining this out of guilt. My wife hears something, too, and turns the monitor back on to check.

“DADeeee, ere are oooo? In the crib? In the crib?”

She turns it off again and I am left to imagine what he is thinking and feeling in silence. I swear I can hear him without the monitor, but I’m not sure what he is saying. If I don’t do something he’s going to wake up his sister.

I swing my feet over the edge of the bed to sit up, not quite ready to put my feet on the floor, to make the decision to go and get him.

“DADeeee? DADeeee? DADeee? Ere are oooo? Ere are oooo?” I hear as my wife checks to make sure he is okay. But he is whining now, working himself up into a full-fledged cry. I can’t let that happen.

I quickly move out of our room, up the stairs and gently open the door to walk into their room where I see him standing in his crib, holding his woobie, with his arms outstretched to make it easy for me to pick him up. And I do.

No one grades us in these moments, thank goodness. No one but ourselves, of course, and sometimes we can be our harshest critics. But it is in these challenging moments, these parental moments, that we learn quite a bit about ourselves, our partners and our children. Fortunately or unfortunately, there are a lot of these parental moments giving us many opportunities to practice.