We have been busy. In the meantime, the whistling ducklings have been growing. Babies, particularly if you don’t watch them, change dramatically in little time. We have seen that with our own babies, particularly our son. He went from a robust newborn, to a skinny little boy, then quickly became husky and awkward, sprouted up and thinned out near the end of middle school right before our eyes. I swear, each day he came down for breakfast it seemed he had grown some more! Now, he continues to look different in snapshots just a few months apart, getting taller and scuplting into a young man! Really, it WAS just yesterday when he was my spindly little fella!
Like the mother ducks, my role in growing children has been as protector, nurturer, guide, mobilizer, and comforter. There is pride and marvel in experiencing our little one’s boldness and first discoveries. Yet, there is a sadness, one that I rarely hear women talk about: loss. If you have loved a small child, you know the intense bond that ties you to that child…wrapped in scents, touch, gazing…needing each other. Once your baby starts to ‘become’ and branch out, get taller and heavier, find new interests, the mother is left in the dust, under the nesting bush, in the car without so much as a look back. It’s hard. It hurts. It feels like grief to know you will never, ever, see and feel that little boy crawl up on your knee again, stroke your hair as you read to him, run to YOU with new discoveries. You move back, as he moves forward. It is the way of life, but like so many ways of life…it isn’t easy. In not letting go, you risk losing him completely. Finding that balance of being there and letting go, remembering the lost boy and feeling joy and pride with the young man is your new daily work. Prayers each time your teenager drives away, takes a test, goes for an interview, or on a date; these are the things of motherhood, the silent grief, joy, wishes, prayers, love that continues on and on.
I have been fortunate to have a very devoted son, not just to me but to his father and sister, too. I still get the hugs and terms of affection, but I’m not sure that any of us parents can articulate the strange feeling of loss for “the little boy” or “the little girl” that was once yours completely, and now, really, is more the worlds than yours. No wonder some of us hold on to baby clothes, their little favorite toys and books, smell their blankets still warm from sleep, or the sweet sweat of their necks as the dash out with a quick hug and a, ‘See ya mom!” Parenting, and from my perspective of mothering, is mix-bag of emotions and decisions that can drastically change the course of the most important relationships in one’s life. As challenging as it is, I am eternally grateful that I was blessed with my two chances.
In OUR busyness of being parents, we forgot to put a pail of food out for the ducklings on Friday. For the first time, on Satuday morning we found them walking around the patio. Just like toddlers, letting us know that they needed food! Funny ducks! And stinky, too! We have had to drain the pond, hose down the rocks, and even with that, the ‘zoo smell’ is starting to permeating the whole area around our house, even the front porch. If it smells like this at only two weeks, what can we expect in a month? We aren’t really sure how to handle it, and just may have to consider having them moved (if someone will do it!) to another location. Sigh. Yes, as cute as they are, duck poop is starting to smell-up the romance of this venture! Realities usually do.
Our mother duck must know that her ducklings are threaten when some one stands in the yard, as she comes out all stiff and strutty…asserting her role as protector of the fold. Does she grieve at a loss? We don’t know. But, surely she can feel their little bodies growing bigger, leaning heavier on her wings…pushing her out of the way for more food, more air, a dip in the pond, leg room, a chance to fly!
Letting go of their littleness and embracing their sense of self and independence seems to be a mother’s job in all of nature, a re-occurring theme in our changing lives.