How to Build a Nest

The finches just beyond my window are shy as they are determined. The proud father-to-be has a pale red chest and head. He stands guard over his mate who furiously robs my hanging straw planter, providing perfect building material for their nest. Still as stone, I watch them through the glass. The minute I so much as shift my weight, they fly away, alarmed.              

I watch them each year and think how I’m feverishly building and fortifying my nest, too. In the beginning it was straightforward, acquiring the non-negotiables such as crib, stroller and car seat. But as time marched on, I realized how much more was needed.  

Like the bird-couple building their nest off my straw planter, I am building mine off the backs of my older mom-friends who have decades of experience. In the early days, I helped myself to one hardy twig handed me by an older wiser mother. It championed choosing my battles wisely. I strove to look to my children’s highest level and turn away from the small stuff. Next came a capable tendril from a veteran mother which I promptly embedded deep in the fabric of my nest. When my kids over-reach and are drowning in deep waters, intervene, and resist turning it into a teaching moment. Rescuing them without a lecture sends a more powerful message. 

I thought I’d discovered the meaning of loving with zero expectations, and then the teen years rolled in. Growing from child to young adult can uncork unrecognizable behaviors. Be ready, I was told. Dubiously, I grabbed this stout stick, deceptively ordinary in appearance, thinking “my children?” Still, I tucked away this nugget of wisdom to create a firmer foundation for my nest which I was learning is not static. Instead, it is ever-changing, adapting to fit the times.  

My neat and tidy nest originally equipped for newborns was evolving to house teenagers. It required additional support. A different season altogether, it questioned all my best instincts as mother. This, I’ve discovered, is when kids start shaking off the encumbrances of the parent shadow so as to assume their real self. Because of essential twigs gleaned along the way from the older mothers in my world, my nest is sturdy, although strong wind gusts still rattle me.  

My planter on my porch, however, needs a new straw liner. Half of it has ended up flying off with the birds. 

Yet, helping anchor another home—be it bird or human—is fulfilling. 

In fact, I’m actively handing out my own little straw sprigs to younger moms around me who are frantically constructing their nests. 

Family life, I’ve discovered, is that important, that perilous, that needy. Just as I’m grateful for the durable building material I’ve amassed along the way to strengthen my nest, I’m deeply gratified by the many nests I’ve nourished along the way.  

One day, the finches didn’t return. Oddly, it coincided with the final days of high school for our oldest child. Mama bird was probably laying eggs at the same time we were celebrating our daughter’s first step into independence, edging her closer to the nest’s edge.   

I recently bought a fresh straw liner. I want to be ready for the bird-couple’s springtime return, an annual event I find strangely cathartic. These finches spur fresh thinking about the condition of my own nest, and how to help in the building of others’.

Kathryn Streeter’s writing has appeared in publications including The Washington Post, The Week and Austin American-Statesman. Find her on Twitter, @streeterkathryn.   

Local Resources

Helping Moms Find & Connect With Each Other

In Psychology Today, the subject of friendship is thrown under a microscope. It’s what gives life meaning yet the very dynamics of friendship are mysterious, nuanced and more complex than we typically appreciate. Moms need other mom-friends for comfort, advice, support and sheer laughs. But for a variety of reasons, there are times when friends are hard to come by. Here are some resources to get you out there meeting other moms and hopefully, finding your tribe.

Houston Moms Blog is passionate about “connecting moms – both online and off.” Get familiar with their creative calendar of events, their directory of all-things-family and get-together invites.

The Silent Book Club Ever wish you could read more? This club draws others like you who need to separate from the home environment to read—in silence—at a coffeeshop or pub.

The Woman’s Hospital of Texas Under the “Patient Education” tab, peruse the incredible array of support tools offered, for example, the free class, Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression Support Group. In these various classes, you’ll meet others with similar struggles and likely, feel a little less alone. 

MOPS This faith-based organization meets locally in churches throughout the city to help moms meet, find community, connect with a mentor, and much more. Child-care available.

Meetup organizes gatherings for moms based on region, such as North Houston SuperMoms and Moms Club of Houston-West; situation, for example, Houston First-Time Moms of 2017, Houston Area Step-Moms Club and Houston Military Spouses Meetup; and interests, Houston Working Moms and Moms On The Run, amongst others.

Houston Mothers Blog This blog makes you privy to fellow moms’ thoughts on topics such as family outings, date-nights, kid-friendly recipes and psst…secret mom tricks.    

DivorcedMoms, an online support resource offers articles on a variety of relevant topics and education for those facing divorce through services such as the The Divorce School. A deep listing of blogs serves to draw together those who have similar needs.   

Houston New Moms Dedicated to moms with babies and toddlers, this site serves to curate various resources including useful leads on where to buy/sell used baby gear, tips for baby’s first haircut and finding indoor playspaces.

Hike It Baby Do you aspire to meet moms who like to hike with their little ones? Simply select Houston as your city of choice, follow the prompts and voila, you’ll finding yourself supporting the site’s noble ambition: “Raising A Generation To Love The Outdoors.”

  Photography by Casey McDonald


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