Family / Parenting

Hummingbird Kid and MeOn Febuary 24th, Miguel left for a three week residency at our school’s farm. He couldn’t take a phone so we bought him a phone card like it was 1997 – 400 minutes of which he has used probably 20. His emails to us have been infrequent and short. Most communication has been mostly about his needs – a forgotten calculator, warmer gloves, cereal that isn’t comprised entirely of flax seed. He has told us very little about what he’s doing other than to say, “I’m having a great time!” and “I miss you!”

Bad Waldsee He called last week and asked me to bring hot chocolate and gummy bears when I came to visit and, as I drove home from the store Tuesday night with the requested items, he called again and asked for Klondike bars. I should have asked him, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” – a missed opportunity. I told him I love him but I have my limits. No Klondike bars.

“Ok! I love you! Goodbye!”

That was it. He wasn’t rude or even really disappointed – simply distracted by friends and his life there that I know little about since our questions have gone unanswered.

This past weekend, the students on the farm stay hosted a pancake breakfast so I drove to rural Wisconsin with friends to see him and our friends’ daughter who is also there. I was excited to see him and imagined how we’d spend our three hours together. He’d show me his room and we’d sit on the couch and talk and he’d play ping pong with his sister and he’d tell us about the soap and candle holders he’d made. I’d get a glimpse into his life.

But this is what I am learning about 12 year olds – in the Venn diagram of the relationship between parent and child, the overlap is growing smaller. He was in the kitchen serving when I saw him, talking to his friends and the parents in line for food. He ran out to give us all hugs but then dashed back into the kitchen to work his shift.

“You have to try my cheesy potatoes, Mom! Take two helpings and pay the extra dollar because I’m worth it!” I took two helpings, of course.

We all sat down to eat our breakfast and he came out briefly for another hug and I tried to ask how things were going but he was gone again, back to the kitchen. I thought of summer days spent at my mother’s cabin, watching the tiny, buzzing humming birds darting to the feeder filled with nectar and then darting away again. I always wondered how they got enough to sustain themselves but they always did. As I sat on that bench eating cheesy potatoes, I realized that Miguel has always been a hummingbird – never still, a blur, a hum.

We toured the farmstead without our kids. We bought the handcrafted goods they had made. We sat on the couch and talked but not with our kids, with each other.

When Miguel’s shift was over, I told him we were all going for a walk. He put his arm around me and told me he didn’t want to go. He wanted to hang out with his friends and some of the other junior high students who’d come up for the day. Zeca didn’t want to go either. She wanted to play ping pong with the girls and I let go of the last expectation I had of our time there.

We went for a walk. We sat in a bird blind. We played in the snow and laughed and marveled at the blue sky and the soft whisper of spring.

And when we returned to the farmstead, it was time for us to leave. I found Zeca playing ping pong and Miguel playing foosball and told them it was time for us to go. I pulled him into a hug – something I rarely do in front of his friends – and he wrapped his arms tightly around me. We held each other for a few breaths which felt like forever because a hummingbird never stays still for long.


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  1. Parents as nectar. I’m going with it.

  2. So beautiful, Vikki. Reflections like these help me prepare for the future.

  3. Am I supposed to be teary? Because I’m teary. All of my hugs with my 17-year-old have been couple extra breaths longer lately.
    By the way, a school farm sounds really awesome.

    • Yes, you should be teary! I was teary. We’re not robots! ha.

      The farm school is “amaze-maze” as Zeca would say.

    • I’m totally teary. I could feel you as he hugged you, and I could feel him as you hugged him. Hummingbirds don’t stay still long enough for much, but if the nectar is strong enough, they’ll stay long enough for a hug.

  4. I just knew from the title that I shouldn’t read this at work (ie, teary eyes). Beautiful.

  5. With a 13 year old boy of my own, this is particularly touching to me today and something I needed to read. Thank you.

  6. Connor is only 5 and I still feel this sometimes. He used to be my little snuggle bug, now he’s just flitting everywhere besides my lap. All the time. The rare moments (normally when he’s sleepy) that he actually comes to me for snuggles I feel just like that, like nectar for a hummingbird.

  7. What a lovely read. I was teary, too, probably because I have a 13-year-old hummingbird myself.

  8. I’m looking forward to Jetpack turning 5 in May, and starting kindergarden, and the kid he’s going to grow up to be. And at the same time, OH MAN. Basically, this post is what I both fear and look forward to, in parenting. Thanks Vikki.

  9. Thank you for this beautiful story. My 15 and 11 year old boys are showing me these precious moments of growth and change, too. It’s a gift to read those experiences written so well.

  10. Pingback: Little Outdoor Kylie

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