Rochester has a bird problem. A crow problem, specifically. When the temps start dipping toward freezing in the fall, the crows arrive. They descend en masse on the trees of downtown for shelter and warmth every evening at sundown, completely covering trees for several blocks in all directions. By dawn the birds are gone, leaving only broken branches and a thick layer of poo covering every square inch below the trees. The city of Rochester has spent thousands and thousands of dollars on crow deterrents and “specialists.” They put nets over the trees, set up fake owls and falcons, tie little reflective strips on the branches that wave in the breeze, install sound machines that mimic the sound of birds of prey, and go out at night with lasers to scare them off. The current score is Crows: 257, City of Rochester: 0.
I hate the crows. Truly, deeply I do. My shift starts at 7 am, which means that during the winter, I’m walking in during the pre-dawn hours. I know what you’re thinking, but I don’t have a fear of birds. Song birds are lovely, eagles are magnificent. I do, however have a long-standing animosity toward crows, which *might* be hereditary. My mom is a big fan of classic Hitchcock films, and I had seen the movie The Birds several times before the age of 12. Mom also speeds toward roadkill with a vengeance hoping to fulfill a lifelong dream of hitting a crow with her car.** Safe to say, this started young.
Several years ago, I had a run-in with the crows. The airport shuttle dropped me off downtown, a couple of blocks from where my husband was working. It was late, and there were 2 blocks of trees solidly covered with crows between me and my destination. At first, I walked as quietly as I could, softly pulling my rolling suitcase behind me. The crows ignored me. 1 block down, 1 to go. Nervously, I picked up my suitcase and started walking on the balls of my feet. I do NOT want to disturb the birds. Do not misunderstand what I am saying here. This is not “Ohhhh don’t disturb the poor, sweet birds! They’re sleeping!” This is, “Those feathered jerks drop poop-bombs the size of baseballs every time they lift off their perches, and I am NOT getting bombed tonight!!” Half a block to go, and I think I’m in the clear…… when all of a sudden, the lookout crow decides to call the alarm. CA-CAAAWWW!!! 3,000 birds call CAW!! CAWW!! CAW!! in response. Hundreds of birds take off from their perches on the trees, and start flying and wheeling over my head. All around me I hear PLOP! PLOP-PLOP!! PLOP. PLOP!! I drop my suitcase down to its wheels and run like the dickens. I’m less than 100 yards from the door when, PLLLOPPPPP….. I get hit, right on the forehead. It splats on my hair and drips down my face and down the front of my (very cute) coat. I whip open the door, run to the bathroom and immediately pour bleach all over my face. *Just kidding*….but I DO spend at least 10 minutes scrubbing my face, hair and coat, while loudly cursing the birds.
Every late fall, the crows start flocking to downtown. Locals submit questions and comments to the local paper, asking what is going to be done about them. The city is occasionally successful in getting the crows to vacate one block, only to have them settle on another one nearby. The crafty devils ruin trees, bomb cars and pedestrians, and coat the sidewalks with their filth. And then every spring when the weather warms, the crows fly back to wherever they came from–the gates of hell, most likely–and we all forget about them until the weather turns cold again.
Sometimes as parents it feels like we find ourselves in a season of the crows. We struggle, struggle, struggle only to succeed in shifting problems from one area to another. The crap gets cleaned up in one area to just find it somewhere else. We read parenting books and blogs, ask advice, try a myriad of “parenting hacks,” and still don’t see one bit of movement on an issue. Potty-training challenges, sibling bickering and competition, sleep training and parent-child power struggles immediately come to mind. There are days/weeks/months where it feels like we are going to be dodging poop-bombs—figuratively or literally—forever. It’s so hard to remember that at any given moment in our lives, we are in a season. Merriam-Webster defines it this way: season (n): a time characterized by a particular circumstance or feature. Seasons, by definition, do not last forever. What can we do to weather Crow Seasons in our lives as parents?
1). Let go of pride. Parenting, in case you weren’t aware, is no place for pride. This starts in pregnancy, with inability to control gas emissions, emotions, and pee. Then comes the birth, with a room full of people all up in your business, followed by wearing an adult diaper for a week or more. Later, letting go of pride looks more like following through on threats to leave a store or social gathering if a preschooler’s behavior doesn’t change. Sometimes it means letting go of the small stuff, and choosing battles wisely. Often, it looks like asking people in your village for help—and accepting it!!—when you need it. It means removing the façade of “I can do it all,” “I’ve got it all together,” and “I am superwoman” and just saying “This is really hard, and I need help right now.” Needing help doesn’t mean that I am a failure.
After my own personal poop-bomb experience, I would carry an open umbrella while walking under the crow-covered trees, regardless of the weather. I’m sure some people thought I looked stupid walking with an umbrella on a dry day. However, I’d rather look stupid for 2 blocks than sit all day at work with crap in my hair. And as a parent, I’d rather feel embarrassed as I drag my screaming toddler out of the store than raise a little jerk who knows he can get away with anything.
2). Don’t be tempted by shortcuts. Sure, cutting across the crow’s favorite hangout would be quicker, but once you get through it, you’re going to want to throw your shoes away. For a lot of the tough seasons of parenthood, the bottom line is there is no quick, easy fix. There is no “Easy” button. Regardless of claims, there is virtually never “one easy trick!” to get your child to start/stop/fix whatever the current struggle is. A true fix is going to take time, consistency and effort. Same goes for weight loss.
3). This too shall pass. Eventually, winter will end and the birds will be gone. Every day starting December 21, sunrise is a couple of minutes earlier, and the sky a fraction brighter. One day you realize it’s light on your morning commute and you haven’t seen a crow in weeks. Likewise, some week will be The Week that the baby really sleeps through the night. Gradually, your toddler will have fewer and fewer accidents, until one day you realize it’s been a month since the last one. The tantrums will at some point go from a daily occurrence to sporadic, and then a rarity. Most things are not a giant leap on one day, but little steps that make a general upward trend.
These crappy seasons won’t last forever. Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and laugh at the absurdity of it all. Next time The Birds is on one of the classic movie channels, watch it and laugh, thinking of me running with my suitcase!
**Disclaimer: no crows have been injured…yet