When the Little Things Are the Big Things

So often, we hear the phrase— “It’s the little things”—bandied about that we forget what it means. And too often, this mom who focuses so intently on projects and work sometimes fails to make the so-called “little things” a priority.

When the Little Things Are the Big Things | Duluth Moms BlogIn our backyard we have a play-set. There’s nothing particularly unique about the slide or the swings, or the monkey bars. However, nestled in the upper portion is a robin’s nest. A mama and papa robin built it several years ago and we’ve witnessed several robin families raise their babies. In the meanwhile, we’ve developed a working relationship with the birds—the kids play in the playhouse—and mama and papa robin fly to a nearby tree and watch. Occasionally, they’ll let us observe feeding time. Each year they come back to the same nest; and this year we’ve seen four sets of robin offspring.

My oldest loves birds: chickens, parakeets, robins, etc., and we’ve affectionately dubbed her “the Bird Whisperer.” Seriously. Come visit sometime and you can meet our parakeets—Puffin Rainbow and Bluey Johnson—and see her in action. Like most folks, you’ll probably be amazed.

When she noticed the most recent family housed in the nest—four little hairless, scrawny robin babies—my daughter announced that she wanted to raise a robin.

“Mom, Mom… MOOOM!,”— this last “mom” when she noticed I was only half-paying attention. “I really, really, really want to raise a baby robin.”

“Oh, honey.” I scrambled to create a coherent, kind, but definite “NO!” response. “Honey, we want the baby to live, right? So we should really leave the baby with its mom. It’s better for the baby.” Her blue eyes—rimmed with amber like her papa’s—filled with tears that slipped down her cheeks.

“I know, but…I really, really, really want one.”

“I know, honey. I know.” And then I played the dad card. “We’ll talk to Papa tonight and see what he says, okay?” She sniffled and the tears stopped.


In so many words, Papa said the same thing: No. And again, she cried—not huffy, angry tears— but disappointed, sad tears. I was sympathetic but no more inclined to dislocate a helpless baby robin from its nest. Several days passed, the robins grew—they mature surprisingly fast—and my daughter frequently reiterated her desire to raise a baby bird. The answer remained the same, “Sorry, honey. No.”

One morning both kids bolted into the kitchen.

“MOM, MOM, MOM!!! We found a baby robin!!!” Their voices vibrated with excitement.

“Ohhhhhh….Um, where???” I was less enthusiastic. Ha!

“On the ground! On the ground! On the ground!” they shouted.

At this juncture, my daughter asked if she could keep it and raise it. I acknowledged the request, repeated the negative answer and instructed them to return the baby to its nest. About thirty minutes later, my children came back to the kitchen and reported that the baby was on the ground again.

This time, my daughter had picked up the baby and was cradling it in her gentle, slender fingers. It was cute. And it was clearly too small to be flying the coop, so to speak. It seemed unharmed.

I’d like to insert here that my approach to the natural world—wild animals especially—favors minimal to no interference; a “Leave No Trace” ethic. We spend nearly all our time outside in the summer and we enjoy the natural world, but I often encourage observation over interaction unless it makes sense to do the latter.

This time it made sense to do the latter.

“Okay, guys. Clearly something is happening to make the baby leave the nest. Either the mama, papa or its brothers and sisters. Or something. Soooooo, {insert a long, hefty exhale from yours truly here} we can keep and raise it.”

This is not what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to create a space for it. I didn’t want to deal with a baby bird crapping on stuff. I didn’t want to deal with the mites or lice it likely carried. I didn’t want to feed and water it all the time. But as I said the words, a look of pure, unadulterated joy lit my daughter’s sweet, sweet face.

Really, Mom? REALLY??!

“Really.” I smiled weakly. 

When the Little Things Are the Big Things | Duluth Moms Blog
When the Little Things Are the Big Things | Duluth Moms Blog

Before I had a chance to change my mind, both kids scurried around the house, found a cardboard box, and made it a makeshift nest. As it happens, raising a baby robin isn’t as difficult as it might seem at first blush. We fed it earthworms, softened dog food, and watered it with a little dropper. The baby didn’t seem to mind the fuss and would snap its yellow beak open to indicate hunger or thirst, while my daughter or son cradled it gently and fed it carefully.

We named the baby “Robin.” Original, I know.

In a few days, the baby was ready to fly our “coop.” We brought her outside—having determined early that this baby was a girl, this without anatomical confirmation (!)—and she hopped off into the woods.

Robin lived in our home for less than a week and in that timeframe, my children loved and cared for a fragile animal. Raising her wasn’t a “big thing”— say like taking a trip to Disneyland or NYC, or some other similar sort of “big” thing.

But as I remember my daughter’s joy-filled face, I’m reminded that in this mothering adventure, so often, the little things are the big things.

Here’s to recognizing, facilitating, and savoring the “little things.”



When the Little Things Are the Big Things | Duluth Moms Blog{ Photo Credit: Naturally Captured Photography }

Rachel, a former writing instructor at a local university, and known as “Queen Patina” to close friends and family (kidding!) — is a reluctant social media user, a lover of old books, flowers, and furniture. She writes about about all three at Queen Patina & the Farm Boy. Typically you’ll find her with her hands in the dirt, plastic tiara slightly askew, or carefully restoring a piece of furniture. If she’s not doing that, she’s definitely hanging with the fam, traveling the US of A, running a local trail, camping, or most recently, working as a birth photographer.
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