Monday, June 11, 2007

the extreme truthiness school of parenting

On our way down the block this afternoon, Cal and I passed by another mom with her two kids in a double stroller. They were looking at a baby sparrow on the sidewalk. It was a baby sparrow, but not a baby baby sparrow, with the damp matted feathers and membrane-sealed eyes and seeking mouth. It was an old baby sparrow. It had mature feathers and it was hopping around the street chirping and everything. The only way that you could really tell that it was a baby was because it was very slightly smaller than the average sparrow, and there were still a few tufts of down back by its wings. I don't know if it had fallen out of its nest, but it seemed just as likely that he had gotten kicked out, like a teenager who just hit 18 and whose parent decided they just couldn't take his freeloading anymore.

The other mom seemed to have her own set of thoughts on this, though.


MOM
Look, it's just a baby.

TWO YEAR-OLD
Baby bird!

MOM
Yes honey, that bird is going to die.

TWO YEAR-OLD
(Dismayed)
Die?

MOM
(Firmly)
Yes, the bird is going to die.


Now, whether or not the bird is going to survive is certainly up for debate. I mean, that would be the case even if it was a full-grown sparrow, because this is New York City, and it's a bird-eat-bird world out there. But is this one of the hard truths that you want to point out to your toddler while out on your afternoon constitutional? I'm all for truthful parenting, you know, no stories about how babies grow in the cabbage patch instead of telling kids about S-E-X, or how we gave Cooper away to a nice family with a big farm instead of admitting that she ran under a bus. (Although: if you are a nice farm family, call me! Free dog!) And not that I'm one to judge, since I've never had to tell Cal anything difficult. But I don't know, I guess I don't have the heart (or the balls) to not sugar-coat things somewhat.

Anyway, my point is not to incite ire, which inevitably happens when one parents questions another parent's approach to anything involving their kids. And who knows, maybe the mom and her kid were just in the middle of a larger lesson about life and death or what have you. My point is that I'm rooting for the sparrow. I think he's going to be fine, frankly. There's an old lady who lives in the apartment building just a few feet away who routinely sprinkles out birdseed and breadcrumbs on her air conditioning unit. Not that I recommend that, because, guh, histoplasmosis, but it's nice of her anyway.

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