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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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For the Birds

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Originally published March 2, 2007

This column is reprinted with permission from The Hills Newspapers.

I’ve heard it all before.  As a mother of three, there is nothing new to be learned on parenting.  When I hear someone offering the latest point of view, I cannot help but think it’s for the birds.

So, I was surprised to learn all sorts of new things from an unexpected source.  Wildlife biologist, Joe Burnett, spoke recently at Oakland Museum about the captive breeding of California condors as part of the effort to restore the endangered bird.  He was appearing in conjunction with the current exhibition “Bringing the Condors Home”.

There is a lot to learn from the parenting habits of condors.  Before laying the first egg, condors set a good example with their family planning.  Condors reproduce slowly, having only one chick at a time.  By bird standards, they take their time in raising a single youngster, before starting over with another.  With all the squawking that comes from my three children at once, I admire the foresight of condors.

Also worth admiring is the way condor parents share equally in rearing their offspring.  Even before the baby arrives, father and mother condor take turns incubating the egg.  Once hatched, the parents compete with each other at times to care for the baby.  I plan to keep this in mind the next time my husband and I draw straws to determine which of us is lucky enough to fly the coop, while the other has to stay home with the kids.

Not only can condors teach us about parenting, but biologists can as well.  In the captive breeding program, when the condors are ready to be released in the wild, the biologists take over parenting duties.  Then, it’s time to teach young condors about avoiding some of life’s dangers, such as electrical lines and telephone poles.  After learning the biologists’ techniques, I am more confident than ever I can convince my toddler not to put his finger in every electrical outlet he encounters.

From the biologists, I also learned something for the future, when my kids are ready to leave the nest.  For a period of time, after the condors are released, the biologists place food sources out in the wild for condors to find.  The biologists want to insure that the condors, on their own for the first time, can make it.  As an overbearing mother, I am inspired by how far the biologists will go to control the condors’ lives, even after they leave home.

By surreptitiously providing food, the biologists also have another goal in mind.  Like all good parents, the biologists understand the importance of fostering the confidence of children.  With confidence comes a greater likelihood of success.  No matter how much parents might wish to control their children’s lives, in the end, they really want them to succeed on their own.  Let’s face it, without success, those grown children could return home to roost, and no parent wants that.

Hearing about the condors gave me fresh insights on parenting.  Maybe the next time someone is offering something new, I’ll listen.  It turns out the latest on parenting is not all for the birds.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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