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Words from an Imperfect Parrot Parent

-by Lisa Bolstad

A few days ago I heard some coworkers talking about the struggles of getting children up and going in the morning. They lamented that trying to get kids out of bed, fed, dressed and ready for school while also trying to get themselves ready for work was at best a challenge and at worst a losing battle. I walked away from this discussion with a shake of my head. They had it easy. Try getting children ready for school while also managing a band of unruly parrots in the morning! Now there’s something to turn your hair gray. A typical morning at my house is a lesson in fortitude…


We don’t require alarm clocks in our home—the birds are up and squawking the minute the sun shows its face over the horizon. As the Greenwings give out that metal-scraping-on-metal-at-one-million-decibels screech, I turn to my husband lying next to me and smile.

“Don’t you love the song of the Green-winged Macaw?” I ask.

He glares at me and then flips onto his other side.

Linnea, my 10 year-old daughter gets up on her own and prances into our room. She pauses to do some random, completely weird dance steps and announces that she’s hungry. Jeff always cooks her a good breakfast, so I leave the two of them together to decide if it’s eggs and sausage or waffles and yogurt.

Twenty minutes later I have my coffee, the bird bowls are soaking in the sink and several of the little feathered darlings are cavorting about the house. Cupid, one of the Greenwings, heads upstairs to see if there are any rolls of toilet paper in Linnea’s bathroom cabinet.

“Watch her!” I yell up to Linnea. I don’t want to clean up a mountain of mutilated toilet tissue.

I run around the kitchen, preparing parrot breakfast and yelling answers to Linnea’s questions. “Mom! Can I get lunch money in my account today?”

“Mom! Can I go to Amanda’s birthday party Friday?”

“Mom! Where is outer Mongolia?”

“Mom! Would you rather be disfigured in a fire or go blind?”

“Mom! What if we just never stopped growing?”

Rocky, one of our Caiques, has just run up my arm as I put his breakfast bowls into his cage. He won’t get off my shoulder and go back inside and no, he’s not going to step up, he’s going to dig in his toes and surf all over my shoulder, thank you very much.

“Mom! What are food stamps? Can you collect them?”

Little Wing, our other Greenwing, is on Sprow’s cage, undoing all the quick links on Sprow’s toys and sending Sprow into spasms of screeching fury.

I hear Erin, my 21 year-old daughter upstairs. “MOM! Cupid is in the bathroom ripping up toilet paper!”

Rocky is screaming, “Mommy! Mommy!” in my ear.

Linnea can only find one shoe. Somehow I am now presumed psychic and hold the secret knowledge of where the other shoe is.

Kwai has flown onto my head and is hanging from my bangs and trying to undo the screws in my glasses. He looks like a big blue locust twirling and flapping just above my line of vision. Rocky bites the crap out of my shoulder because he doesn’t want Kwai up there.

“Mom! What if people only wore one shoe and that was totally normal?”

Cupid is now in Linnea’s bathroom yelling, “Craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaacker! Mmmmmmm! Cracker!” Apparently the toilet is now magically dispensing crackers.

Dillinger is foraging on the floor for stray pellets and is heading for Sprow’s cage to cause more pandemonium. Nazem, the dog, is trailing behind Dillinger in case he dispenses any scrumptious green and white cream candies.

“Mom!” Erin shouts behind me, “Where did you put—“

I spin around to face her, the giant blue bug swinging crazily from my bangs. “What?” I shout back, my glasses hanging to one side, “Where did I put your WHAT?”

She stares at me, then turns and runs upstairs yelling, “Dad! Oh MY god! You should see Mom!”

Dillinger is now under Sprow’s cage and Sprow has worked himself into a lather of rage; he is shrieking and screaming Patagonian words at Dillinger that don’t bear thinking about. Little Wing is now shouting at him: “Shut up!” “SPROW! Stop screeeeeeaming!”

I consider locking myself in the downstairs bathroom with a bottle of Cuervo.

Forty five minutes later, after bribing Rocky back into his cage with a pistachio and using a pumpkin seed to lure Kwai out of the nest that he has made of my hair, after getting everyone back into their cages for breakfast, after kissing Linnea goodbye and assuring her that no, there is no way that meat from the store could ever be brought to life-not even with dinosaur DNA, I walk out the door to go to work. The feathered abominations caterwaul in the house behind me as I get in my car.

Gunnar, my 19 year-old son has slept through everything. He could sleep through a meteor landing in our living room.

The first thing I do upon entering the university where I work is go to the kitchen for coffee. A number of my coworkers are standing around imbibing in this most wonderful beverage. One of the girls exclaims, “Wow! Your hair looks awesome today. Did you get it cut?”



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