Today one of the babies ventured for the first time from the nest.
I expected to see the parents trying frantically to get him back in the nest. Because after all, think of the bad things that could happen to him out there in the yard.
He could fall off the branch.
The evil sparrows lurking nearby – well, they’re not so much evil as just stupid – could swoop down and scare him.
Or the loud, overbearing grackles. Or the into-everybody’s-business mockingbirds.
And then, of course, there’s the huge wiener dog who comes out of the house occasionally.
But the mom and dad just sat there, not alarmed at all. As if this was exactly what was supposed to happen.
They took turns caring for the baby, seemingly in perfect sync with each other. The mother would fly off somewhere, while the father sat on a branch a couple of feet from the baby. The baby cardinal would flutter its wings and stumble around on the branch, but the father never moved.
As though the dad knew his place was to stand by. To keep watch. While giving this new one time and space to find his own way on the branch.
The mother took turns doing the same.
Just let one of those pesky sparrows come near him, though, and they both were on it.
What touched me most was watching the father feed the baby. With all the tenderness of a father who knows what his children need before they ever ask, I watched him gently approach and place the worm he plucked from the ground in his baby’s beak.
Hours later when the baby ventured off the branch and flew to the ground and back for the first time, the dad was nowhere in sight.
But you can bet he was nearby.