News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion Columns

October 2, 2012

LIZ CIANCONE: Mom’s theories worked best when all senses were used

TERRE HAUTE — I once read a book which offered theories about how to raise a child. The author may have been the writer who wrote “Cheaper By the Dozen.” The author said that she had once had a dozen theories about raising children, but now that she had 12 children, she had no theories.

I’m not sure how many theories Mom claimed. She had three children and we are all different, so she must have had at least three theories. I have no idea which one she used on me. Maybe it was the one she thought might be the best, or maybe the easiest.

She called it the “Momma Bird Theory.” What it involved was that as soon as the baby birds could fly, they were out of the nest. There was a proviso or two: the momma bird was to get out of the way and let the baby bird fly, but there was always to be a light on the porch of the home nest just in case council was needed and sought.

I can’t begin to remember, or count, the times I flew back to the nest for council. Mom never told me what I should do. She offered alternative actions for my consideration. I was supposed to take wing and try them out until I got it right.

That was one wise momma bird. I stumbled a few times, but stumbling is a learning process too.

As a momma bird of sorts, I can tell you that it is a tough job. Sometimes, a lot of times, you have to keep your mouth shut. I learned, as a momma bird, that ears are as important as one of the five senses as the mouth, and many times, the ears are the more important sense. Sometimes a baby bird really knows what to do, but just needs to talk it out.

I was also fortunate in finding a good friend who also had two sons, just slightly older than my two. Her theory was a spin-off from Mom’s theory. Lorna’s sons moved some distance from the nest, but were often back at the nest looking for the porch light.

Lorna reasoned that you should hold your children in what she called “an open hand.” They are free to fly and do their own thing, but are more apt to return to a loving hand if it is not a clutching hand that imprisons them.

Mom is gone now, and so is Lorna. I think about them often and remember their words of wisdom. I look at our own two sons and I think — with pride but also with considerable modesty because I certainly didn’t do it alone — that they DID learn how to fly and that my Best Friend and I did a pretty good job.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Her weekly column has appeared on this page for more than 20 years. Send e-mail to opinion@tribstar.com.

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