It’s spring. My dove just hatched her single egg yesterday after two weeks of faithful brooding. I was puzzled when I approached the dove house as she was in the outside enclosure sunning herself for the first time in those two weeks. Inside, on the nest, her mate was dutifully taking his turn sitting atop the hatchling, making sure the little naked baby didn’t get cold in the brisk morning temperature. He was giving her a break from her 24/7 job yet he himself had been her constant companion during those two weeks, sitting on a perch where he could watch her and protect her and the egg if the need arose. Who was going to give him a break from his vigilance?
They are monogamous and committed partners, these two. It does my heart good to see such instinctive drive to cooperate together to raise the next generation. There are a few species who prove over and over again how beneficial it is when two parents work together to raise the young. I’m not always sure humans are one of those species. Monogamy is taking a heavy beating in today’s society.
More children are born out of wedlock now than to married parents. More children grow up in single parent homes than in homes with two parents. More children are left alone to their own care, or to the care of the internet or television than at any time in history. They are raising themselves~~disastrously. There is no one sitting on the nest.
In the mean time the adults are struggling to sort out just what they want for themselves. While one segment of society is fighting hard for the legal right to get married (and of course divorced), a majority of heterosexuals are increasingly rejecting legal marriage in favor of a “roommates with benefits” arrangement. No harm, no foul. Those who do spend an average of $20,000 for a wedding ceremony and reception can anticipate a 45% divorce rate within fifteen years. Not a great return on investment. I wouldn’t gamble that kind of money.
A New York Times article this week reported on the increasing divorce rates in rural communities as traditional womens’ roles in the home have been turned on their head by economics, politics, education and changes in moral and spiritual values. Women are opting out rather than staying put in a relationship that doesn’t meet their expectations. Some are taking their children with them, others choose to leave them behind. The article is disturbing enough to read, but even more so the hostile and vitriolic comments about marriage and monogamy that follow the article. My comment in defense of the covenant implied in marriage vows, which takes precedence over the desires of the individual, was a distinct minority view. Most people want their “pursuit of happiness” to include escaping the bonds of marriage if that is what it takes. I once attended a wedding where the couple’s vows were “as long as we both shall will.” Oh really? And how long might that be?
So just what did they expect? The princess wedding dress and crisp tuxedo suit with a half dozen attendants along with the anticipation of “happily ever after” is not enough to carry a couple through many sleepless nights, baby poop and toddler vomit, pounds gained and jobs lost. It can be an interminable tough slog. It’s not long before it isn’t fun and fantasy anymore, the passion is past, and it is hard work to stay together. Some people move on, still looking for happily ever after, wherever they may find it: in material possessions, in status and income, in another partner’s bed, in a bottle, or in the haze of smoked substances.
I’m blessed to be bound nearly thirty years in marriage to someone who I celebrate every day, even in the times when it is work to share our nest. When I look at my dove’s devoted partner, I see that same protective look that I see in my husband’s eyes in his commitment to stay by my side no matter what, helping to raise our youngsters until they fly from our nest to their own adventures and someday families. And I am committed to stay with him, just as we said in our vows to each other (from Thomas Hardy): “And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be— and whenever I look up, there will be you.”
When our nest is empty, now only in a matter of a few months, we will still have one another to keep us warm.
Happily together ever after, as long as we both shall live.