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Adulting: The Work of Young Adults

September 23, 2020

Another Way for week of September 18, 2020

The Work of Young Adults

(Editor’s note: Fourth in a seven-part series on the nature of work.)

In summer my husband likes to keep the garage door open just a few inches to cool things off. This summer a house wren made her home in our garage.

By the time we discovered it, Ms. Wren had laid her eggs. Babies were coming whether we wanted them or not. We couldn’t bring ourselves to move or dump the nest.

Wren nest–in coffee can–in our garage!

Then one day I crawled up to peek. The baby birds had hatched! Ms. Wren was flying in and out faithfully bringing breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And depositing her own breakfast, lunch, and dinner all over the garage. Eww. I cleaned up the messes every other day or so. We were expecting our whole family to arrive for a staycation at our home and the last thing I wanted to worry about was my five grandsons tramping in the bird doo.

Would Ms. Wren be able to fledge her babies before our babies arrived? (They’re not babies, but range in age from “almost two” to “not quite seven”.)

I looked up the habits of house wrens and learned that most baby birds fledge two to three weeks after hatching. Then yay! The peeps DID get out just in time. I scrubbed the garage floor one last time.

If only helping our own children fledge the nest was as easy as it seems for house wrens. But wait a minute: it was actually pretty incredible how she not only taught them to leave the nest on their own and fly (without our dog chasing them), but also taught them to find food for themselves. In other words, to be adult birds.

While as parents we have a much longer fledge period for our offspring, we all hope they grow up to be fine adult people. There is also lots to teach—but an important time in parenting.   

I remember when our oldest daughter was graduating from high school. I suddenly became aware of things we hadn’t quite taught her about what it means to be an adult. Simple things, like say, ordering Chinese food to go. We (mom and dad) were gone for the evening and after Michelle got off work, she decided to just order Chinese take-out rather than cook dinner at home for herself and her sisters. She looked over the take out menu, and knowing that they enjoyed a variety of dishes when at Chinese buffets, ordered small containers of about 4-5 different dishes, plus rice, eggs rolls, and Chinese donuts. Needless to say, they ended up with leftovers for three or four meals, and a big bill.

What’s ahead as little ones grow up to launch out on their own?

Other things I remember: her surprise and disgruntlement when Dr. Greene, a children’s dentist, told her she needed to find a dentist for grown-ups. I think she would have preferred continuing to play Nintendo while waiting for checkups than reading old copies of People magazine. We talked about other rites of passage like signing in herself at the doctor’s office, ordering prescriptions, filing taxes, and much more.

Back to Ms. Wren: the two things most important to teach her little peeps was how to fly—their job if you will, and how to find food. The same with our young people. As they grow into adulthood, kids need to know the importance of working hard and holding a job—and learning to cook and take care of daily needs. Hopefully we teach them the importance of work while they are still young.

I have felt extremely sorry for young adults during this pandemic, especially those trying to start college. What a mess, in most places. My heart goes out to you and your parents. Adjustments to the normal fledging phase may have to be made but hang in there. I’m sure you’ll get there in the long run and find your way in the world. At least I pray that will be true. All the best to those in this difficult phase.  

For a free small booklet called “Work Therapy” with 35 succinct tips on enjoying our work, write to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.


Or, for more on helping young adults launch, you or a friend might love this book by Brenda L. Yoder.


Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. I’m seeing a lot of similarities in the process of helping new immigrants find their way in this culture. The asylum-seekers we’ve been sheltering in recent months are getting their work permits and learning to “fly.” But so much depends on something we often take for granted: a driver’s license and a car. Without these, wings are clipped!

    • My mother–at the other end of the age spectrum– certainly feels her wings clipped with no car any more. I like the example you shared here, Nancy. Thanks!

  2. I like your pairing of the mama wren story and teaching kids (and grandkids) to grow enough feathers to become airborne when they venture into the adult world. Mama Wren was sure wise to use the coffee can as a nursery nest.

    About your introduction: As a matter of fact, we leave the garage door open a bit during these hot, summer months. I think it helps the AC work better and alleviates heat build-up. I haven’t noticed any avian life though. Cute story and lovely photos, especially the boy through the looking glass. Thanks, Melodie.

    • Marian, we did not discover the actual nest for a couple of weeks. Thanks for affirming the idea of leaving the garage door open–and the photo of grandson #2 at about 1 1/2. Looked through lots of my photo files until I found one that I thought worked. 🙂

  3. Beverly Silver permalink

    The nervous system and the brain development are so amazing in humans and birds. instinctive behavior in the birds is built in as they grow and mature to a great extent.. Of course that is true too for humans, but life is so complicated for us humans – we need so much teaching. Beautiful story! Thanks

  4. Thanks, Beverly, for your additional comment–I didn’t know that about birds, really. I might have guessed, but I trust your wisdom, professor! Glad you enjoyed my little bird tale. 🙂

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