Mrs. Cuckoo Bird was perched on a leafy branch, surveying the nests in the trees. Most of the nests were crowded with squawking, squeaky baby birds, noisily demanding to be fed. Again and again, mother bird fluttered up to her young bearing tasty tidbits in their beaks. Each time, they were greeted with outbursts of excitement, praise, and thanks from their young charges. Their voices blended together to form a pleasant cacophony of activity and renewed life. Yet, as Mrs. Cuckoo gazed at the scene around her, she did not burst forth in joyous song; to the contrary, her eyes reflected pain and heartache.
After a few minutes of observing the buzz of activity around her, large drops formed in the corners of her eyes, and slowly ran down her cheeks onto the leaves below.
A brown and white dove noticed Mrs. Cuckoo's distress and landed on a nearby branch. “What is wrong?” she asked with concern. “Can I help you in some way?”
“No,” answered the weeping bird. “I can't think of anything you can do to ease the pain in my heart. How shall I not shed tears when I see all these nests around me, full of youngsters who cast adoring glances at their mothers, and welcome them with love and joy each time they return to the nest? I, too, wish that I had a loving family to greet me and shower their affection on me! “My young wont' even look at me! They turn their backs on me and ignore me! How shall I not weep? I am so jealous of all the mother birds I see that my heart breaks within me!”
The dove herself was on the verge of tears. How well she understood the cuckoo's pain! She searched her mind for words of comfort. Then a thought occurred to her. “By the way,” she said gently to her new acquaintance. “I don't remember seeing you sitting on your eggs this spring. Where did you build your nest? Do you have a large brood this time? Do you manage to keep them well fed?”
Mrs. Cuckoo looked down at the trunk of her tree, avoiding the dove's concerned gaze. She answered nearly in a whisper. “I didn't have time to build a nest … I was too busy with all sorts of things...” Such was the nature of Mrs. Cuckoo; she tackled only those tasks which brought her immediate reward. Long-term projects were not for her.
Mrs. Dove slowly shook her head from side to side. “So that's the story!” she thought to herself. “If this mother didn't trouble herself to build a nest, she must have laid her eggs in the nests of other birds, and left them there to be raised by strangers. Mother Dove had never taken a course in parenting, but she understood at once what had happened. If that is the example you set for your offspring, how do you expect them to love you?
“You can hardly expect to enjoy successful parenthood, if you haven't even troubled yourself to build a nest for your young, much less to hatch their eggs, and to feed them and raise them with love!” she twittered reprovingly to the cuckoo bird. “I'm not surprised they turn their backs on you! What have you done for them, that you expect them to shower you with gratitude?”
* * *
Some parents think that it is not necessary to invest all their time and energy in raising their children. As they see it, their youngsters will nonetheless see them grow up and become healthy, productive and upright members of society. They are sadly mistaken, and will be disappointed when the time comes for their contemporaries to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labors. Educating one's children takes endless effort and dedication. It is an investment of a good chunk of one's adult life. One can not succeed in the arena of true, fundamental education without a long-term investment.
When something is truly important to us, we are prepared to invest a great deal in order achieve it. We devote endless thought to ways to improve our efforts, to make them more efficient and productive, to expand, strengthen and consolidate our efforts. Our attitude to our children's education must be likewise.
Unless the parent is prepared to make a significant effort, he will find himself resorting to threats and shouting, and often engulfed in angry confrontations. The atmosphere of the home will be tense and unpleasant; children will be far from calm, happy and relaxed, while their parents will experience a sense of on-going, bitter frustration.
It is essential to keep in mind that parenting is not an easy challenge. We must give it our attention, study and compare its methods, and apply ourselves to the task at hand. We can find advice and assistance from many sources, but not without effort. We must learn not only what to say to our children, but also how to say it, so that they will listen, and listen willingly. Likewise, we must learn the art of keeping the atmosphere of the home calm, warm, and caring. Our concern must be to ensure that the child wants to listen when we call him; that it be his pleasure to co-operate and take the family needs into account.
We can become relaxed, congenial parents of well-disciplined, co-operative children. Like so many things in life, it will happen only if we apply ourselves diligently to achieving our goal. Just letting things happen without our taking initiative, hoping that in the end everything will turn out fine, is not the formula for successful parenting.
The more we invest, the higher will be our dividends. Another idea, another suggestion, another insight shared with our spouse – all this adds up to bring us the rich reward of a maturing child who can distinguish between right and wrong. Likewise, he will know what is advisable, what makes sense in the long run, and what should better be left unsaid and undone. Each additional investment in our children increases our possibilities of satisfaction and joy. Even then, when we have the gratification of observing our children function as mature adults, our task is not complete. There remains much to contribute even when our children have established their own homes. We can help to maintain the gains of the past, to protect our achievements lest they come to harm. The joy of watching our little ones become successful parents in their own right is beyond compare.