Once a pair of cuckoos devoted a great deal of thought to their parenting skills. “How can we guarantee the brightest future for our precious eggs?” they asked themselves again and again. Traditionally, cuckoos have sought to advance the prospects of their young by laying them in the nests of other birds. In this way, the hatchlings might make the most of varied environments and grow up to be more well-rounded and more successful than their parents. But this cuckoo pair differed from that pattern. Already convinced they were the most well-rounded and most successful birds they knew, they wanted their young to have every opportunity to prove they were worthy of their heritage by emulating the accomplishments and satisfactions their parents had attained. To this end, the cuckoos diligently planned out every moment of their unhatched eggs’ future: what brain-stimulating bauble to buy first, how to “ace” the entrance interviews of the most prestigious Pre-Ks for gifted toddlers, which youth soccer league to join, which SAT and ACT prep courses to follow, what community service looked best on college and university applications, the choicest careers for wealth and prestige, which political party to support, and so on. Despite all these efforts, the cuckoos couldn’t free themselves of a gathering anxiety that their young might not grow up to be a credit to them. Suppose the little ones turned out not to show any benefit from these many efforts to secure a future as impressive as their parents’ past? Wouldn’t that failure inevitably mean years of underachievement, hopelessness, and low self-esteem? As the cuckoos looked around them, this anxiety was only increased by what they saw. The neighboring clutch of eggs appeared so promising. Could their own ever hope to match the neighbors’ in Pre-K-for-gifted-toddlers interviews, soccer wins, test scores, college or university admissions, career choices, wealth and prestige, political affiliation, and so on? They even began to wonder if the neighboring eggs weren’t in fact meant to be theirs all along and had inexplicably ended up in the wrong nest. Once they’d reached this distressed state of mind, it wasn’t long before the cuckoos were driven to desperate measures. They began roaming far and wide in search of unguarded eggs that could prove worthy of their love. The many they plucked from other nests not only burdened theirs, however, but also made their own eggs appear even more unsatisfactory by comparison. To the cuckoos’ eyes, the new ones definitely looked more likely to make something of themselves fully deserving of all the parenting efforts and sacrifices made on their behalf. This being the case, the cuckoo pair felt they had no choice ultimately but to begin pushing their own eggs out of the overcrowded nest, letting them fall to their fate below.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans