I felt really guilty and ashamed for the feelings I'm about to admit having. Then I realized, I wasn't alone in feeling them and that it's actually - quite common and quite normal. And somehow not being alone in my feelings made me feel better, and no longer guilty and no longer ashamed.
I've often felt like my life has always been a "balancing act" of sorts - the travel, the work that looks like play to outside eyes, the constant go, go, go. Dave and I knew none of that would change when we had a human child - but my children were always my parrots before that. I never understood people that gave away animals when human children entered the picture because I hadn't lived it. (You know how when you're not a parent you think you'll parent in so many certain ways and aspects and then it hits you and you'll literally do whatever you need to do to get a sane second out of each day.)
I guess I assumed since our daughter was being raised with birds, she would love them and them her. But it's not that simple or that easy. Especially in these early years. And I stopped updating and posting and even training because I felt so stuck. I felt taken away from my life of training whenever I wanted, or whenever the birds seemed moldable - I felt stuck in this wave of being grateful my daughter wanted to take part so much and annoyed that my time with my birds was constantly interrupted. Or, if she wasn't present, I was rushed to fit my training into a "set time" instead of going off of my feeling of when it would be best to train. And if I came out of that forced time unproductive, then I would really get edgy.
Finding balance between being a mother of a human child, and being a companion to my birds felt impossible. I literally resented how hard it was to be a mom of a human. People would joke and say to me, "Which is harder, the parrots or the kid?" and I wouldn't even wait a beat before replying, "The one you can't stick in an aviary and walk away from."
My parrots are literally better at self-entertaining than my daughter.
Even as of late, Capri tries to be part of my training process. She insisted on rewarding one of my Camelot macaws with pine nuts while I was flight training him and even though she didn't do anything wrong; he bit her. He bit her when she was offering a treat, and it wasn't because of anything she did wrong, per say. It was because she was making herself a part of a session that he wanted to be just me and him. He was focused and in a training mode, anxious to work and even taking a second to receive a treat from her was a training interruption. That's where the guilt kept creeping in - I would feel annoyed that she wanted to be part of every session I was having. I wanted my own sessions by myself. But then I would think how lucky I am that she has interest at all and still likes the birds after being bit (hurt feelings and all.)
Finally, she is at an age where I can explain things. Not fully where she truly and always understands but enough. Enough to be able to say, "I'm going to train the birds, can I help you get paints so I can do it?" and it still doesn't go perfectly. Perfectly to me would be without interruptions at all and we're just not there yet...
Any of you who follow me closely have seen my videos of me trying to train and her commentary on the sidelines. It's still a struggle.
I was explaining to a friend the other day who asked what I do if Capri is mean to the birds. Well first, she isn't because they can be meaner. But she has on occasion yelled at them to stop it, or not do something. I was telling how I have to calmly say, "Please don't yell at the birds, I don't want them to learn to say that to us." when really I want to flip out and be like, "Stop yelling at the birds!!!!" but then wouldn't that be exciting to repeat? And it only takes once! Capri often likes to play "teacher" and direct the doves especially, "Be nice! No, you don't do that... you're going in time out if I see you do that again." and full conversations not said with enthusiasm are totally okay in my book, there is a difference between that and telling the macaws to "STOP! Right now! No, don't do that!" which I do not want. Not to mention they don't respond much to it anyway.
I still haven't found my balance, if you're wondering, but I've tipped the scale a lot more in my favor and I believe it will balance out as she continues to get older and is able to understand more and more.
Right now my mornings are my own, I am able to feed, water, and clean and even spend some extra time loving on my birds and weighing them each and every morning on my own. She may come in for a hot second to ask a question but it's enjoyable and I can count on it. She also makes it a point every morning around 7:30am when the birds awake that she goes in alone and wishes them a good morning, and turns on an extra light. I love that she has her own thing she likes to do for them.
I also caught her setting up my phone (although on photo instead of video) to video tape her training session with her dove. She had a clicker, a t-stand and his seed. She said he wasn't learning to turn around in a circle and asked me how to train it. I explained how, and she said she had a different way but that Silky (her dove) wasn't learning. I tried to explain that animals don't work for food they get all the time, and that Silky was veryyyy full. That didn't seem to get through but she doesn't want another session with my help. That part I adore. She has been begging to train her own animal and I like that. She doesn't just want an animal to play or cuddle with, she wants to train it and takes pride in doing so.
Someday, I'll be more balanced than I am today but as in everything, I'm learning it's also its own process and there's much to learn along the way.
Thank you so much for posting this. As a Parrot behaviorist for rescue birds (many who are displaced when human children enter the world) I see a lot of mom guilt. I also had mom guilt when spending time with my human children and not with the birds, or vice versa. I just have so much respect for what you do and who you are as a person. Keep up the good work!
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