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Spoiled Rotten Robin
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a variety of newspapers. Here's this week's Reality Check!

All week we’ve been watching an extremely obese baby robin who lives outside our dining room window. He’s out of the nest, but he doesn’t fly much. He just hops around, tweeting as loudly as could be, calling for his parents to bring him something juicy.

For the first day or two the dad complied, but then he grew tired of all the digging and abandoned the mom and their child to the far side of the lawn. But the mom persisted, digging up worms by the dozens and bringing them to her hungry child. That little baby, though, was never satiated. And before our eyes, he became the most enormous robin I had ever seen, while his mother wasted away.

My family has been on a bit of an Abba kick lately, so my children named the robin Fernando. And now they’re singing to him: “Can you hear your mom, Fernando? She is telling you to shut your trap, cause she is coming soon….” Here’s another: “Can’t you get your own worm, Fernando? Or do you think someone else should always do the work for you….”

This robin may have been kicked out of the nest, but the mom refused to leave him to fend for himself. And this bird grew so enormous, we started wondering if the laws of gravity would kick in and he wouldn’t be able to fly. Once he managed to hop to the top of the fence, and then promptly fell off into our neighbour’s backyard. The next day we caught him attempting to fly again, except this time he aimed straight into our windows. Again and again. Fernando is definitely missing a bit in the brain department.

Robins need to do two things: they need to fly, and they need to dig for worms. Fernando can’t do either, but he doesn’t need to, because Mama is always there to bail him out.

Perhaps humans and robins have more in common than we think. Many of us want to make our children happy, and so when they tweet, we get to our feet. But what kind of life is that, for either of us? If we’re always giving to our children, we’re going to exhaust ourselves, spend all our resources, and raise children who still expect us to do their laundry when they’re 27.

Parenting has changed so much in the last fifty years that I don’t even know if we realize what it is to spoil a child anymore. Today, good parents don’t punish; instead, they encourage children to share their feelings and find their own identity. And this child-centred parenting model has meant that we may know more than our great-grandparents did about how to keep a baby safe and healthy, but we know far less than they did about how to prepare that child for independence. We may know how to stimulate a baby, but do we know how to say “no”? Do we know how to teach a four-year-old to put her toys away? Do we even know we should? Chores are so old-fashioned; X-boxes are so today.

Summer’s just around the corner, and it’s tempting to want to make the season as fun for kids as possible. They’ve worked hard all winter, and now you want them to celebrate. But before you spend your life chauffeuring them to the beach, buying hundreds of popsicles, and filling up your credit card bill with the latest backyard pool toys, ask yourself, “has my little robin learned to care for himself at all this summer? Has he learned to listen, put his toys away, and clean a toilet?” And if he hasn’t, then maybe you need a new summer plan.

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To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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At 9:51 AM , Blogger Berji's domain said…

:) As I was reading this, my 2 yr old was complaining that I was not getting her swim suit for her, after I told her precisely where it was (in a reachable location). I guess she didn't really want the swim suit that much after all!


At 12:51 PM , Blogger Kelli said…

I couldn't agree with you more. Sometimes I feel like the "odd mama" making my children do chores before anything else in the morning (even my two-year-old has them), being responsible for cleaning up their own messes and learning that if they don't eat what they're served for dinner, they don't eat. There are days when I'm tempted to give in, but I don't and know that my children are better off for it!

One thing I do find interesting is how abundant we are as moms to ask our children if they WANT to do something..."Can you share that toy with Johnny?", "Can you go brush your teeth?" WE are the parents. The phrases should go more like this..."You need to share your toy with Johnny. It's his turn now." OR "It's time to brush your teeth sweetie."

Thanks for posting this. I'm loving your book by the way!


At 5:56 PM , Blogger Mélanie said…

Baby robins making our home theirs and ABBA fever in the house... too weird, that's been our house and I wrote a post about each on my blog the past while! My robins flew the nest pretty quickly though and never looked back... more the independent types then yours apparently!


At 12:03 AM , Blogger Kimberly said…

Our children all have chores they are required to complete each day. I have been hearing for years, they are the only people on the planet still required to do chores.

I finally started asking their friends, what chores they did, and how often. I was shocked to find most of them did absolutely nothing at home. I was very quick to point out to my children how fortunate they are to be taught household tasks, and how to be self-sufficient.

I don't know what these other parents think they are teaching their children, but they are doing them no favors.


At 4:53 AM , Anonymous Mom To A Preschooler said…

This post really hits the spot. In our desire to give our kids the best, we sometimes forget that we need to teach them to be independent too. We are actually not doing them a favor if we take care of everything for them. I guess it's one challenge that we need to overcome.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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