Friday, May 29, 2009

My love is like a Mother Wood Duck's

Mama Wood Duck & Ducklings

The first clue should have been when we spotted two ducks IN A TREE (??) several weeks ago. We chalked the weirdness of that sighting up to an extended happy hour, and dismissed it from our minds. However, doing a little research later, I discovered that the visitors were wood ducks, which nest in trees, usually within one mile of a water source. After hatching, the baby ducklings FALL from the tree's nest, and can survive falls to the ground up to 250+ feet. Which makes me think, "Watch that first's a doozy!"

I've decided that my love is like a Mother Wood Duck's.

No, it'll never be the title of a hit country song, but bear with me, and you'll understand the sentiment after reading this entry.

So, really, the performance could have received an Oscar for Best Actress in a dramatic role. The Wood Duck was THAT good. As I walked out into my yard, I heard a flapping noise in the yard next door. It was a duck, and it appeared to be incredibly hurt and agitated. "Pain" and stress were emanating from this poor creature. It flailed, it hopped, it dragged it's wing. And me? I fell for the biggest distraction ever, even though every kid in elementary science learns that this is a a mother bird's ploy to distract a human or other predator from either its nest or its young.

I stopped in my tracks and surveyed the scene. "Aha! I'm onto you, Mama," I said. Sure enough, out from beneath some Hosta plants, screaming, "Cheep, cheep," were ELEVEN little wood ducklings. Fluffy little marvels hollering, "Wait for me!"

The mother duck, you can imagine that internally, she was shaking her head, "These kids. They never listen...I tell them to wait in the bushes. Do they? Of course not. *SIGH*" Resigned to her protective role, she returned to them, and placed her body between me and her brood.

As a fellow mother, I understand the responsibility and the burden of providing physical protection. I moved to a safer distance to watch them, which lessened the mother's terror. She turned back to them, and gave them what I can imagine to be a tongue lashing about following orders. I'm sure there would be repercussions for the disobeying ducklings later.

They turned to go. Eleven little fluffballs, following in a straight line like new kindergartners, and I was left to ponder the bravery and love of the Mother Wood Duck.

Daughter, I love you like a Wood Duck loves its ducklings. As a Mom, it is my job to protect you from harm. I would use any means of distraction to lure a predator away from you, even at my own peril. I would take on any animal or human threat, even if it was 100 times my size. I would place my body between you and any danger. Now, if it were only as easy to protect you from emotional hurts!

So again, I love you like a Wood Duck. Listen for it on your local radio station.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Random Acts of Humanity...with a hint of Kindness

My daughter was released from school early last Friday to begin the long Memorial Day weekend. We decided to take a road-trip to the Amish community located north of Pardeeville. Because it was her first visit, I spoke of the people's dress and manner. I told her that she could expect to see buggies pulled by horses, and an overall simpler way of life.

When we left town, we passed a man on the highway who was holding a sign that said, "Will Work for Food." He was a young, African American man, who looked uncomfortable holding up the sign for all to see. He leaned against a highway speed limit sign, his backpack near him on the ground. My daughter, who hadn't noticed him, continued to chat happily about our upcoming adventure.

I drove for nearly one-half mile and then I did a spontaneous, quick u-turn into a McDonald's. "Why are we stopping here, Mommy?" I explained about the man who I had spotted on the road. I told my daughter that we were going to buy him some cheeseburgers.

While we waited in the drive-thru lane for our order, we talked about how truly blessed we are. We may need a new $10,000 roof on the house, but we are warm and dry. We may have more bills than money, but we are so fortunate. We are loved, we are healthy, and we have a little money to go on adventures like the one we were on that day.

With cheeseburgers in hand, we perpetrated yet another u-turn and returned to where the young traveler was standing with his cardboard sign. As we pulled up, I rolled down my daughter's backseat window. She smiled kindly at the man, as she handed over the food to him. The young, weary-looking traveler, looked from my daughter to me, and then back at my daughter. "Thank you very kindly," he said with a smile. Daughter and I replied, "You're welcome," in unison. As we started to drive away, he called out, "You have a great day."

You, too, young man. We hope YOU had a great day. We wish for your luck to change. We hope that the day comes soon that you have a warm bed to sleep in, a roof over your head, and food in your belly. We hope that someone picked you up and provided you with employment, lodging, and more food.

As we drove on to our destination, I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw my daughter smiling serenely and gazing out her window. I asked her what she was pondering, and she replied, "I was just thinking how nice that was, and how lucky we are."

I hope this lesson in random acts of kindness will stick with her beyond this day. I wish that one day far off in the future, she will relate this story to her children and grandkids. I pray that she will grow to be a kind steward to people and animals on this big ole spinning blue ball called Earth.

I find that when I'm in parental teaching mode with my child, I often times learn more than my daughter did from the experience. Here's what I learned.

First of all, after I made the decision in my head to do this deed, I immediately started second guessing the plan. Inside, I was scared, and I questioned, "WHAT am I DOING?!" I am ashamed to say that I locked the car doors. In full anxiety mode, I pictured him pulling out a weapon when the car window was rolled down. Cripes, who can blame me? The media deluges us daily with frightening stories of murder, mayhem and tragedies. Truly, it's amazing that we can even leave our homes each day for fear of falling victim to a violent crime. The first lesson I learned is that there are so MANY MORE good people in this world, than bad people who wish to do us harm.

Secondly, I learned that I do not have a big, lovely heart that embraces all people. I had to confront my stereotypes head on. I immediately assumed the worst about this young man on the highway. What was his racket? Why doesn't he have a job? I squashed down those nagging thoughts, and reminded myself that being homeless and poor is not a crime. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. People lose their jobs and can end up homeless. We are here to love one another, not to judge.

Most importantly, I learned that to be a good parent, I cannot just tell my daughter to be nice to others. I must model kindness and generosity through my own behavior and my actions. The best part of this teaching moment, for both of us, is that it wasn't planned. It wasn't a premeditated, contrived experience that I'd set up in advance. It was right then and there - spontaneous and unanalyzed.

And, knowing my daughter, and her incredible memory, she will comment on this act of kindness in the future when we drive past that spot on the highway. I can picture it now, "Hey Mommy, remember when we gave some cheeseburgers to that man?" As her Mom, it is up to me to make this story the rule, and not the exception.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wrinkles - A road map of my life

I forgot to set my daughter’s alarm clock for the school day, so I had to wake her up. I sat down on the edge of her bed and looked down at her sweet, unlined face. I whispered, “Good morning,” and within a few moments, she awakened and looked deeply into my eyes.

I patiently waited for her sweet morning greeting. Instead she studied my face closely, frowned, and then said, “Mommy, your eyes look old this morning. Underneath your eyes, it looks puffy and wrinkled. You look about, hmmm, 49 years old.” (Children are full of truth serum, at this age.)

Uh hem. I recently turned 42 years old. Ouch! What a rough way to start a day. I went into internal and external justification mode. “I’m tired. I didn’t sleep well. I haven’t put on make-up.”

Later, after she’d gone to school, I studied those facial lines (I refuse to call them “wrinkles) in the bathroom mirror. I decided that I am comfortable with the aging process, and I don’t feel that I’ll be tempted to go under the plastic surgery scalpel anytime soon.

I wanted my daughter to know that I am comfortable in my skin, in the hopes that she will grow up being comfortable in hers. I jotted down these thoughts to share with her.

Dear Darling Daughter of mine:

You commented recently that I have lots of wrinkles on my face and that they make me look older than my actual age. At first, I was saddened by your observation, but after thinking about it, I have found peace and acceptance, and perhaps a bit of pride in the lines that show on my face. The pride part has a little bit to do with you.

I decided that I have earned each and every one of these age lines, and I am not going to make any excuses or apologies for them. You are responsible for several of them. Some of these wrinkles are reflections of the life that I have lived with you.

Sometimes, my eyes are puffy with dark circles because I haven’t slept well. As your Mommy, at times I worry, and that causes me to lose sleep. When you become a Mom, you will find out that as a parent, you worry about your child all of the time. You stay awake at night pondering crime, global warming, swine flu, and billions of other crazy notions. Actually, I don’t think I have had a truly carefree night of sleep since May 21, 1999.

Did you notice those crow’s feet around my eyes? A great many of those lines were obtained from watching your sporting events held in the blinding sun, or playing with you in the backyard. Any time that I can spend with you, I will always choose a little sun-damage over missing out on an experience.

Yes, I have lines around the corners of my mouth, too. I’ve noticed that they become more pronounced every time you make me smile or laugh. I’m happily keeping them.

Those deep furrows between my eyebrows, show all of the worries that I have had for, and about you, throughout the past ten years of your life. As you grow older, and the challenges grow tougher, the lines have progressively deepened. Those particular wrinkles began when you were in the womb and I cried because you might have been born with a birth defect. They deepened during those 2nd grade days when you came home from school, and said that you didn’t have any friends to play with. And today? I have devoted today to worrying about your entry into puberty, and all of the “stuff” that comes along with it.

So, my daughter, I won’t be seeing a plastic surgeon for a face lift or an eye lift. Each of those lines is a roadmap of what makes me - ME. And, if I removed some of my wrinkles, I would be erasing a part of the life that I have already lived…with you.

Your loving, pruney Mother.