Not all lessons are good
It is a tremendous responsibility to teach children. It can also be a lot of fun.
I have recently had the pleasure of spending a lot of time outdoors with my grandsons. They are still at the age they think I know everything. I try not to disappoint them. If I do not know the answer to one of their questions, I look it up. They remember even minute facts I have taught them about the outdoors. I have also learned a few things in the process of being a teacher.
The other day, Zane brought me a baby sparrow that had fallen out of its nest. The first question from him was what to do with it. I suggested we put it on the fence up by the barn and wait for the mother to come take care of it. When I asked what he thought the best course of action would be, he thought we should make it a nest and take care of it until it was able to fly on its own.
With his insistence, I relented and said he could keep the bird. Everyone has to learn the harsh realities of life eventually. I was hoping to avoid this lesson for a few years. Wild animals in captivity rarely do as well as when left alone. My wife provided a nice coffee can, a few dollars worth of cotton balls, and a well ventilated lid.
Later in the day, I saw Zane hiding behind the tree that held the bird feeders. He was poised with his butterfly net and was not moving a muscle.
I said, "What are you doing?" He answered, "Shh, I am going to catch a mommy bird."
Much to his dismay, I walked to him, ruining any possibility of his catching a "mommy bird".
I asked him what he was going to do with a "mommy bird" knowing full well he expected it to take care of his baby sparrow. He informed me, if he caught a "mommy bird," it could make milk for his baby bird until it got big enough to fly.
It is hard to burst the bubble of someone that has a plan, but I had to explain the facts of life to a five year old. Mammals make milk, birds do not. Mammals have hair, birds have feathers, and even if he caught a mother goldfinch, she would not take care of the baby sparrow. I could see in his eyes, he felt defeated.
Nature is harsh. Sometimes we can not control what happens. It is a sad but true fact of life. We may want to help, but there are many times when nothing we do will make the situation better.
Zane decided to take the little bird up to the barn with hopes its mother would return for it. He hated to take it from the warm and safe confines of a coffee can full of cotton balls and leave it alone on the fence. We left it and returned to the house so the mother would not be afraid to care for it.
An hour or so later, Zane went back to check on his baby bird. It was gone! Trying to put the best possible light on the subject, I suggested it may have flown off somewhere in the barn. Perhaps the mother came and took it off to a safe place. Zane looked extremely concerned and said, "Maybe the dog ate it." I did not deny this was a possibility, but I told him we prefer to think it flew away. He decided this really was a better way to look at the situation.
Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.