"And then his teeth broke and his jaw broke and it fell on the ground!" Lisa's words hung in the air with a shock and gruesome tone amid all the screams and hollers of the other children in the playground. I just hung from the bottom bar of the monkey gym, toes dragging in the gravel, my knees barely skimming the dusty ground. I tried to imagine this boy and his broken teeth and broken jaw falling to the ground.
I wondered out loud, "Did he get in trouble with his mom?"
"WHAT?! I don't know!", Lisa yelled back. "I just know he tried biting a jaw breaker and that's what happened." Lisa was scrambling to the third bar height on the monkey gym which I had no intention on doing. I never went higher than the first bar and I never bit into my jaw breaker candy. Safety first. I already knew that in the fourth grade.
Jaw Breakers are amazing hard balls of layered flavors and colored sugar. They come in all kinds of threatening sizes and colors. But the color on the outside is never the color for long. Every lick gets you to a new colored flavor. You can't cheat a jaw breaker. You have to do the work and you have to save what you've done for later. Jaw Breakers are a work for sugar kind of candy.
I fell in love with a different candy not long after this recess conversation. The Ever Lasting Gobstopper. Too bad it's not real. It's a Willy Wonka idea that sounds amazing, looks amazing and is not real. Basically it's a Jaw Breaker that never shrinks, but it also doesn't change shape, flavor or color. You just have this candy that goes on forever the same way forever. I loved the idea, and I really loved how Willy Wonka described his invention. "It's for children with very little pocket money!" I appreciated that. Later in life I'd find a pearl of wisdom in that Gobstopper. Very little investment gets you very little anything.
What's this got to do with companions? Expectations and the reality of our lifestyles, that's what.
Parrots and our lifestyles, are simply Jaw Breakers. Limited in lifespan, surprising, a little dangerous and always ever changing until the end. As simple and real as a layered round ball of colored sugars we can enjoy it for what it is, or we can try to cheat it and bite hard down on it to get to something we hope is better. Ironically, it not necessarily better, but always different.
Life isn't an Ever Lasting Gobstopper. It was never intended to stay the same while never ending.
The majority of inquiries for help or assessment I receive are based on wanting to keep a parrot acting like "they used to". It seems to be a state of being where an eternal goal is to fight the evolution of a personality. Our birds will change over time. As we all do. They may or may not change their minds back or forward. It's mandatory to remember a companion parrot is an opinion forming personality. It's part of the lifestyle.
Creating your Successful Companion Parrot Lifestyle isn't about creating an Ever Lasting Gobstopper lifestyle. We aren't trying to create stasis, but better, synergy and communication and trust and growth and a bond based on experiences not successful tricks. A lifestyle with a parrot is messy, loud, active, changing, demanding, colorful and ever changing, if we're doing it right.
I teach routines and schedules with seriousness because that certainty allows the chaos, change and evolution of life to happen inside a firm structure of communication. I do not teach the idea that once you get your bird "tamed" or "bonded" or "trained" you are done. This isn't about submission to our will. This is about sharing an ever changing and surprising life with a very intelligent creature.
When your parrot has changed a preference consider when and the why of the change. And consider honoring that change rather than trying to find a way to get them to act like they used to. Time plays a huge part in our lifestyle and trust building. We have to be fearless and allow our companions that freedom of choice when it is safe and delivers confidence for them. Our lifestyles were meant to be as colorful as our companion parrot's feathers.