When a bird crashed into our window, I grimaced at the sound of cracking bones. It dropped to the ground with another sickening noise, and at that exact moment my daughter decided to come to the window.
“Look, Mommy! A birdy!” she exclaimed, pressing her face to the glass. She stood back a moment and her smile fell. “It can’t fly, Mommy!” She told me as she watched it stand, flap one wing, and fall back to the ground.
“Is that so?” I asked, fighting to keep my tone inquisitive.
“Can we go help it?” she asked, and call me weak, but I couldn’t deny her with the innocent, pleading look on her face.
“Okay, honey,” I told her. “Go put some shoes on and I’ll get a piece of paper to pick it up.”
“Okay, Mommy,” she replied brightly and bounded off in search of shoes. I retrieved a piece of copy paper and waited by the front door for my daughter. She came running in, almost crashing into the door in her excitement.
We walked outside and I picked up the bird on the paper, carefully carrying it inside, my daughter’s eager gaze following on my heels.
“Is it okay?” My daughter asked. It only took one look for me to know that the bird wasn’t going to survive, but the hopeful look on my daughter’s face was what made me tell her.
“It’ll be fine,” I reassured her. “It just needs a safe place to recover.”
Silently, I examined the bird’s broken wing. It was plainly obvious that the bird would never fly again.
As the days passed, my daughter fed and cared for the bird diligently each day. We wrapped its wing together and carried it outside on the day it was to be released, when I had deemed it “recovered”.
My daughter set it on the porch step and watched eagerly from the window, waiting for it to fly away. It tried and tried to lift itself off the ground, instead falling off the step, where we watched in silent horror as a neighbor cat came by, taking it without a fight.
My daughter turned to me then, and I wondered what she might say about the bird’s inevitable fate.
I realized my mistake in all of this when I saw her eyes well up with tears.
“You told me it would be okay, Mommy,” She accused, nearly whimpering. “You said we could save it.”
I had never felt like more of a failure as a parent as when all I could do was sit and watch my daughter cry, still up against the window, because I gave her hope for something that never even had a chance.
It would have been much better, I thought afterward, had I just told her from the beginning that the bird would not have lived.