I often hear that owning parrots is like bringing a toddler into your house – for life – and I feel like it’s true. I don’t have kids myself, but I asked some friends and family who have been through the terrible twos… and they agree. There is a reason some people choose to call their pet parrots ‘fids,’ or refer to themselves as ‘parronts.’ (I prefer ‘slave,’ myself.)
- Tantrums. Parrots have tantrums. Babies have tantrums. They are remarkably similar to behold. I once watched Bobo the umbrella cockatoo have a meltdown because people weren’t saying hello and goodbye to him as they passed him in his carrier – a cardinal sin, in his eyes. He crouched down and howled until people looked at him (and at me, because what an abusive human I must be to cause my animal to make that terrible noise). Later, I went grocery shopping with my partner and watched a child fall screaming to the ground. I saw people giving his mother the very same look.
- People judge your parenting/parronting ability. Oh, yes, if you go out in public and your bird or child misbehaves, it must be because of you. Sometimes you’ll even garner unsolicited advice!
- Parrots and toddlers share the same emotional and cognitive intelligence, and are therefore capable of being very manipulative. Puppy dog eyes? Enough said.
- The mess and destruction. Nothing is safe. What looks interesting gets explored with a mouth or beak. Everything you own has been gummed or chewed. You know how your toddler scribbled on the walls? Well, just imagine your entire wall has been chewed through to the other side, and that’s what it’s like to own a macaw or cockatoo. Toddlers and parrots both leave spectacular messes wherever they go, especially when you try and feed them. And there is no such thing as truly toddler- or parrot-proofing your home.
- Sleepless nights. With Bobo, our umbrella cockatoo, we would creep around after dark for fear of waking him. If he heard us, he would give a hearty shout (or seven) to let us know that he was onto us. I spent many a dark hour soothing him back to sleep after a night fright. And don’t forget bedtime tantrums. ‘I DON’T WANNA GO TO BED.’
- Routine. Both love and thrive on routine. Suddenly you can’t stay late because you have to get home in time for bedtime – the ‘sitter is only available ’til five. No longer can you travel on a whim or enjoy the total freedom of independence.
- Nothing you do is done solo anymore. Nothing. Peeing? Better count on company. Washing dishes one-handed? Get used to it. Going out on errands? Pack for two. Chores? Nope. Learn your balancing act.
- Noise level. They get vocal when they feel sad/happy/angry/frustrated/sleepy. Parrots who don’t get their way have been known to scream and shriek until you give in. Sound familiar?
- Poop. There is a lot of pooping going on with babies and parrots. And neither one tends to control it.
- Mood swings. Those terrible twos are ever-lasting for a parrot. Happy-angry, happy-angry. I’ve seen the same thing happen to toddlers. Laughing one moment, shrieking the next.
- Completely needy and dependent. One will grow up, and one never will, but they are both completely dependent on you for their every need – from food, clean living, and comfort and love.
- They’re hell on shoes. Toddlers outgrow them like nothing else… and parrots just chew them to pieces.
- Both have their own ideas of what they want to do. Look out if you try and stop them. Both are always on the move… for trouble.
- The majority share a limited vocabulary mostly consisting of coos, shrieks, and babbling – with a few words thrown in. That doesn’t mean that they can’t communicate their wants, though.
- You make sacrifices. First goes the freedom to do what you want. Then you make financial sacrifices: no eating out because you need to buy toys and supplies! Next comes the sacrifice of your own bedroom. Hey, they need it more. Finally, you even give up your sleep and the food right off your own plate. Nothing is too much.
::Bonus:: Convincing either one to eat their vegetables is a long-held battle that usually ends in a huge mess.
**This is by no means a post intended to diminish the hard work of parenting. It is also a gentle warning to anyone considering a parrot, as owning these animals – even a humble budgie or cockatiel – is not as simple as many may envision.