NO CRYING IN THE NEST – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Nest

A woman, younger than me, has no children and asks: “What is ’empty nest syndrome?’ What does it mean?”

I gave it a bit of thought. After all, my nest is empty except for two terriers and the handsome husband.

The empty nest is one in which the children have grown up and moved out. They have independent lives. These newly made adults have left the family nest and assumed the mantle of adult responsibility.  Isn’t that what we wanted all along?

Swan family all lined up

My mother’s life did not revolve around me, though I kept her pretty busy for a long time. She was a dutiful mother insofar as she did the right stuff. She fed us, though this was her least shining achievement. She clothed us … and to this day I wish I’d better appreciated the clothing she made for me. I was just too young, awkward, and afraid someone might notice I was dressed “differently” from the other kids. Big mistake.

The whole family!

She talked to me about adult things in an adult way. She gave me tons of books and if I look around, I probably still own more than half of them. These weren’t the books my friends and schoolmates read. They were grown-up literature. Sometimes, I had to ask her what it meant because if anything, she overestimated my understanding of the larger world. When I was ready to go, she was proud of me for taking the leap.

It freed her to paint and sculpt and travel. To read, go to the theater, spend time with her sisters. Not cook and clean all the time. Make her own clothing instead of mine. She was glad my brother and I were independent and built lives.

I doubt she suffered from any kind of empty nest issues.

Nor did I. Of course, my son and his family kept coming back. For years, I yearned for an empty nest. Having finally achieved it, do I miss the patter of little feet? Or, for that matter, the thunder of big ones?

Flocks of Goldfinch

I miss the thunder more. Is there something wrong with enjoying the company of adult children more than little kids? I really enjoy having real conversations with grownups who look like me. Even if we disagree, I’m delighted they have opinions. That they are part of a bigger world and standing on their own feet.

Maybe the difference is that so many women seem to prefer babies to adults. They don’t want independent children who don’t need them. Some parents urgently need to be needed.

Children need nurturing, but they don’t need it all the time and they definitely don’t need it for their entire lives. After some point, their drive for separateness should overwhelm the need for nurturing. The drive to be independent should become dominant. I have always thought it’s our obligation as parents to help our kids achieve adulthood because we won’t be here forever. They will need to go on without us.

An empty nest is when you don’t need to do a load of laundry every day. Where the sink isn’t always full. You can park your car where you want it.

Photo: Ben Taylor

Extra rooms revert to your use, even if you use them as closets for all the stuff you collected. If you have a life of your own, interests of your own. There’s no such thing as an empty nest. It’s a time when your kids have achieved maturity. It’s when the work you did to raise them right pays off.

Adult children are great. If you still need to nurture, get pets. Adopt dogs and cats and ferrets and parrots. They will always need you.

If you do it right, your kids will always love you, but not always need you.

Battle of the Nests – Chapter 3

When I first started following the drama at Whitins Pond, the Canada Geese had come and taken over the nest belonging to the pond‘s long term residents, Mr. and Mrs. Mute-Swan.

The battle is waged.

The battle is waged.

The daring fait accompli has not been without ramifications, however. The Mute-Swan family has built a new nest in an adjacent curve of the pond, a swampy, shallow area with excellent nearby food sources and a clear 360 degree view of the surrounding area.

Today, we followed Mr. Swan as he patrolled his piece of the pond, keeping a wary and belligerent eye out for The Enemy Geese.

Mr. Mute-Swan enters the narrow and shallow channels leading to the swampy area where the new nest has been built.

Mr. Mute-Swan enters the narrow and shallow channels leading to the swampy area where the new nest has been built.

Looking right left, then snaking his head behind, he headed for home by the most indirect route possible.


Garry and I, cameras hanging all over the place followed Mr. Swan’s passage through reeds and swamp grass. He made one brief check to make sure we were not a threat or, alternatively, packing goodies for him. I apologized but had not had the foresight to bring bread. Sorry kids. Next time!


Having ascertained that we were neither a threat nor a source of food, papa Swan proceeds to the nest where he joins Mrs. Swan who is still fixing up her nest and could really use a little help.


Together they enjoy a few cozy moments, rearranging pieces of grass and reeds and weeds and suchlike.

But ho! What evil lurks just beyond the nest? Those devil geese are spying on the new nest? Uh oh!


As you can imagine, the Mute-Swans were not happy about this. They stayed in their nest and made evil eyes at the geese until the Canada Geese took flight. Using a widely circuitous flying path, the geese returned to their (stolen) nest


You can run (fly) geese, but you cannot hide!  Mr. Mute-Swan because knows where you live because your nest was HIS nest before you snatched it. And Mr. Mute-Swan holds a grudge. If he had shoulders, there would be a very big chip on them.

After the geese flew home to the other end of the pond, mom and dad Mute-Swan spent a some more time snuggling and arranging furnishings.


Were the geese lulled into a false sense of security thinking that Mr. Swan forgave or forgot? Not on your life. As soon as the missus was settled in, Mr. Swan decided it was time to swim next door to harass bad neighbor Canada Geese.

Garry, stationed at the other end of the bridge, picks up from here.

Garry, stationed at the other end of the bridge, picks up from here.

Mr. Swan spots his hated neighbors.

“Aha!” he says in Swan-ese. “Never shall these evil geese know a moment’s peace while I’m on the pond!” Gathering himself together, he gets ready to show those geese a thing or two!

Attack mode!

Attack mode!


“I’ll show you, nest stealing demon geese!”

It’s going to be a long, hot summer down on Whitins Pond. Very long and hot, hot, hot!

What struck me the most about this was how human the birds’ behavior is. The geese, having already stolen the swans’ nest have no reason to keep bugging the swans. And the big male swan, having built a new nest, had no reason at all to go over to the geese and harass them. He was simply pissed off at the geese and wanted to get a little of his own back. He had clearly no intention or expectation that he would be able to drive the geese away. He just did it to annoy them. Pure revenge.

I didn’t know birds could hold a grudge. I didn’t think water fowl committed acts of vengeance. I didn’t know animals could behave in a way that is as petty as people. I’m betting that although the geese won the battle, they will never know a moment’s peace on Whitins Pond because that big bad Mr. Swan is not going to ever forgive or forget the insult of having his nesting place usurped by a couple of geese.

That’s about as human as it gets. Next thing you know, they’ll be setting up a government and giving tickets for swimming too fast in the channels.