Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com
Today is Mother’s Day, and I just realised that I wrote a post about mothers and motherhood only two weeks ago (you can read it here). Instead of writing about this topic in a deep and meaningful way, again, I want to address what motherhood might mean from the eyes of two kinds of animals that have been quite central in our lives lately: cats and birds.
We got ourselves a cat about a month ago. My daughter had been asking for a pet for a long time, and after looking into fish, birds, rats and ferrets, I settled on a cat as being the best fit for our family. Ginny is a young female, she’s only about 9 months old now, but the vet who treated her said she’s already raised a nest of kittens at some point. They never found the kittens, which means they were probably old enough to leave already by the time she got picked off the streets.
Thinking of this young, playful cat becoming a mother emphasizes the strong biological and instinctive nature of caring for young ones. It doesn’t matter what you’ve learned or studied, some skills are just built into our biology. Mothering, when we get out of our heads, is very much like that. Caring in general, is very much like that, in humans even more so than in cats.
Another instinctual habit of cats is to chase prey, including birds. I actually like birds, and some species are threatened with extinction, so our cat wears a bell to warn them of her approach when she goes outside. It also warns us when she’s trying to sneak into the bedrooms (which are forbidden territory).
This brings me to my second topic: birds in general. For the past few weeks, there has been a pigeon’s nest in the tree beside my daughter’s window. At first, we saw the mother brooding on her nest. Daddy pigeon would bring food back and forth. Then, we saw the two chicks growing in the nest, pretty much right outside her window. And last week, on an evening right before bedtime, we witnessed the first flight of one of the pigeons (the other one needed some more time). We saw the mother in a nearby tree, and heard her calling. The young bird flapped its wings a few times, stepped onto a branch and jumped.
The courage of this young bird, the self-evident trust and encouragement from the mother, they made for an incredibly inspiring moment. The fact that I could share this with my two children, made it all the more wonderful.
What these two mothers share, the cat and the bird, and what all mothers really share, is the strong instinct to raise offspring that can stand on its own two legs. The young are cared for in a way that is appropriate for their age. They get what they need when they need it. At first, it may be warmth, food and protection, later it is the call to leave the nest and spread their own wings.
In caring for others, we sometimes forget that the best way to care for them is to help them grow until they can take care of themselves, as much as they possibly can. Raising a child who is neurodivergent, I am sometimes tempted to protect him and shield him from things he doesn’t want to learn or try, not being quite sure whether what I’m expecting is reasonable or not. That may make him more comfortable in the end, but it won’t teach him the skills he needs to look after himself, even if he may never be able to completely take care of himself (I wrote about this more extensively in this post).
As mothers, our goal is to raise our children so they can, someday, take care of themselves and take care of the people around them. We want them to learn respect, compassion, persistence, consideration, resilience and patience. But, maybe even more so, we want them to learn how to build a life that is full: full of joy, full of adventure, full of love.
I’ve read a ton of books on parenting, and applied much of what I’ve learned.
Neither my cat, nor the pigeon on the nest has done any reading whatsoever.
There’s value in researched choices, and there’s value in instinct and intuition. As long as we are guided by what helps our children grow best, both approaches work just as well.
Happy Mother’s Day!