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"Birding as Bonding and Prayer" by Tiffany Walsh (CatholicMom.com) Image credit: Pixabay.com (2014), CC0/PD[/caption] My 8 year old daughter is having a difficult time adjusting to her new school year. She’s been at the same Catholic K-8 school for three years now, but there have been some changes leading into this year. Her brother graduated and moved on to high school, two good friends left the school to attend elsewhere, and another friend was placed in the other third grade classroom. My Anne has been noticeably deflated when she comes home from school every day, and I notice the signs: she’s lonely, and she’s feeling a bit down about it. I have been working hard to encourage her through this tough transition towards making new friends and creating fresh and exciting memories at school. We haven’t prayed together about this issue, because Anne and I do not have a regular routine of shared prayer aside from me asking her to pray for people as intentions are brought to me, and she brings them to her prayer circle at school. She is a sweet and empathetic child who always thinks of others, but the two of us praying together is not something that she always enjoys. I think that she is embarrassed by the vulnerability of it, and so I have always given her that space to pray as she prefers. What I have been focusing on is indulging all of the things that she enjoys at home with my undivided attention. I sense how much she enjoys sharing the things that she loves with us, and the emotional and even spiritual connection that this elicits. She’s much more open to talking about what is bothering her, and what she is praying about, when we’re sharing one of her favorite things, and for Anne that involves animals, particularly birds. For being just 8 years old, my daughter is an excellent birder! She has her own bird guide to aid in identifying what types of birds she sees, and I gifted her a field journal where we note down a date and description for each new bird species that she spots. She has binoculars and books, and delights in discovering new places to look for birds. Neighborhood bird feeders rank right up there with nearby wildlife sanctuaries to our tender-hearted gal. "Birding as Bonding and Prayer" by Tiffany Walsh (CatholicMom.com) Image credit: Pixabay.com (2009), CC0/PD[/caption] This year, we had an American robin nest in the backyard, and the process of seeing the mother bird incubating the eggs, followed by the sight of her delivering food to the three tiny beaks that sprouted up was absolutely heartwarming. They are lovingly known in our household as “mother robin and the triplets,” and we are already coveting their return to our home next spring. "Birding as Bonding and Prayer" by Tiffany Walsh (CatholicMom.com) Image credit: Pixabay.com (2011), CC0/PD[/caption] In our urban neighborhood, the selection of birds that one sees is limited, but we still take great joy in seeing house sparrows and European starlings, as well as the occasional house finch, black-capped chickadee, red-tailed hawk, and blue jay. We planted specific types of flowers this year to attract northern cardinals and goldfinches, and hold out hope each year to glimpse a ruby-throated hummingbird. Going into the backyard with Anne, and seeing what the birds are up to makes her face light up with happiness and curiosity. She’s even come to recognize the calls that the cardinals and the chickadees make, and how to distinguish them from the sounds that other birds make. I am so proud of her thirst for knowledge on this subject, and I absolutely love sharing this activity with her. Whenever we talk about birds, I can see the worry and heaviness of her school day melting away, and her attitude towards everything becoming much more positive. I’m hoping that nurturing her thoughts and feelings in this way will help to ease her through this difficult transitional time. Do you find bird watching to be a calming experience that relaxes you and draws your spirit closer to God, the Creator of all living things? I would love to hear about it in the comments!
Copyright 2019 Tiffany Walsh