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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Parents Need to Be Smarter than Ducks

This morning I did my part to help two ducks improve their terrible parental skills. Looking out the front door, I noticed that a male Mallard was standing bravely on our front lawn, looking as if he were scouting and surveying the area. Those dark beady eyes, those webbed feet - yes, it was him again. With a touch of compassion for this slow-learning critter, I did my part to help his parenting skills by opening the front door, staring him in the eye for a second, and then stepping toward the newspaper and picking it up. He called to his mate a few meters away and they both flew off toward the east. I hope I wasn't too late - I hope they didn't repeat the disastrous mistakes they've made in the past by building their nest and laying their eggs near our house.

I first met these two ducks, or rather their offspring, when I was in my basement a few years ago and heard a strange peeping sound coming from one of our window wells. I looked through our tiny basement window and saw seven little ducklings that had fallen into the window well. They were hungry and cold. Some were near death. We looked for their parents and tried to get parents and babies back together again, without avail. We finally decided to try to nurse them to health, but only two of the batch survived over the course of the next few days. Eventually we took them to a local pond and released them. We would later add plastic covers to our two window wells to avoid this fiasco in the future.

In spite of that disaster, the ducks came back at least twice over the next few years. Last year to my horror I found a nest of duck eggs just inches away from the window well that doomed their children before. The nest was pretty much in plain site, next to our house. It was really stupid. We tried to respect the parents' privacy and not disturb mom as she sat on the eggs to incubate them, but we humans have needs, too, like mowing the lawn. After one lawn-mowing episode, I guess mom was upset enough by the racket that she may have abandoned the eggs. Some ended up on our lawn and some seemed to disappear - perhaps the ducks found a way to move some to safety. The nest was empty with no sign of ducks after that. They vanished - until this year.

I saw them fly into the neighborhood yesterday at dusk, but they landed two houses away, so I thought we would be safe this year. But seeing the male standing on the middle of our front yard as if he owned the place signaled that this experienced couple was planning more disaster for their offspring once again by returning to a familiar but dangerous place. I think they really like us and our yard, but this really isn't a healthy environment for their kids. So I did them a favor by spooking them this morning. Like I said, I hope I'm not too late.

Some parents never learn, but they should. There are some influences and environments that are simply too dangerous for children. I'm tired of watching parents cheerfully waddle around as their kids drop needlessly into dark wells of immorality and other negative influences that will leave them cold and spiritually starving. All of us parents are flawed, but there is guidance that can help us avoid the pitfalls and bad environments that can harm our families. The Church is a tremendous resource of wisdom and guidance for families. The teachings to parents and youth, if followed, do so much to help our children and our families succeed, and to help us recognize how to find and create healthy environments for child raising. We were meant to be smarter than ducks in such matters.

15 comments:

The Mitchells said...

Great analogy! Thanks so much for posting this!

Taylor said...

Love the story and love your insights. This reminded me of the nest we currently have hanging on the front door of our house. :-/

Ducks are certainly not the only "birdbrained" parents out there...

Sherry said...

My brother and sister-in-law had kids late in life, and they abuse them completely. I'm not sure what to do about it. It kills me to visit them to see the abuse.

Ryan said...

++ great analogy

It does break down in one place, though. The ducks were probably smart enough not to push their ducklings into the window well...

Sherry: If "completely" == "severely" and it's physical I would recommend calling CPS before it kills them, though the foster care that followed would be a (very) mixed bag unless you could find a way to keep them in the family.

If it's verbal, I don't know what to do... I saw literally obscene levels of parental verbal abuse all too often on the buses and streets of Pittsburgh, but could never figure out how to tackle it. Absolutely sickening.

Anybody know if LDS Family Services has resources for dealing with this sort of situation?

Anonymous said...

HI Sherry,

Unfortunately CPS has no real way to deal with verbal abuse. Parents say horrible things to their kids, but unless you could show mental injury, not much would happen. In some cases ducks are smarter than parents. You don't see ducks abusing their kids. They work as partners, and make sure the ducklings needs are met. On the plus side, if you got kids into foster care, most states encourage placement with family whereever possible. What little I know of LDS Social Services is that they offer a wide variety of counseling services which would likely cover abusive parenting. The key is to get the parents there to address the problem.

Catholic Defender

Bookslinger said...

Abusive people don't see themselves as being abusive. It's justified in their mind.

Sherry said...

Bookslinger, you are so right. It's a combination of verbal and physical, mostly verbal. Whenever I've spoken to her (the sister-in-law) about it, she tells me I'm overreacting. Today, my 5-year-old niece asked me about people killing other people, and did they keep on doing it. Then she said that her mother keeps telling her that she is going to whip the blood out of her. I honestly didn't know what to say to her because it came out of the blue. I've talked to the Bishop about it, and he said he heard concerns from other people as well. All I can do is pray about it and be around the kids alone as much as I can. Thanks everyone.

Bookslinger said...

If it's physical, and the kid shows you a bruise, turn them in.

I'd rather have my brother or sister hate me, than have a dead neice or nephew on my conscience.

Another way is to tape record or video tape them. Sometimes that gets people to wake up. One of those daytime trash TV talk shows did that, in response to a mother who said her kids were out of control, and the videos showed it was the mother who was out of control, not the kids.

The parents will probably let you do it (video tape), because, like we said, the parent thinks they are totally in the right and it's all the kid's fault.

Darion Alexander said...

Good post. I would probably eat the duck though...okay maybe not.

As for the abuse post, if they are being abused, then yes, definitely get some help, either from CPS, a church, someone. It would have been a lifesaver for me had someone intervened for me when I was young. The only thing that helped me was finding the Church and then realizing with the help of President Benson, that it was up to me to break the vicious chain of abuse. Maybe that should be another post Jeff for another day.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Brother Lindsay.
And as someone who knows what its like to go through physical and verbal abuse, I couldn't agree more Bookslinger!

Bookslinger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bookslinger said...

Darion: What you refer to as the "chain of abuse" is true. It happened in my life. As soon as I was put in any position of authority, I got abusive.

Just like the D&C says, as soon as they (I) get a little authority, or so they suppose, they (I) start to exercise unrighteous dominion (abuse).

It took until I was 42 years old before I could really see what was happening in myself. Up until then, I always saw it as the other person's fault.

I've seen it in a friend's family. I saw her verbally abuse her daughter that still lived at home (the oldest had already moved out). And when the oldest had a child, in times of stress, she'd verbally abuse the child just like I saw the mom do to the other daughter. "Hmmm, where have I seen this before?" I wondered.

By then, her mom (my friend, now a grandmother) was old enough and had been through enough counseling to know what was going on, but her daughter didn't realize she was re-living the pattern.

If I don't watch myself constantly, I fall back into the pattern by making hurtful remarks whenever something doesn't go the way I think it should.

I need to always think before speaking/writing and ask myself "Is what I'm going to say/write going to be uplifting?" But I often forget to go through that analysis before speaking/writing.

Being positive and uplifting seems to come naturally to some people. I need to constantly work at it. And I fear that too often I still am more negative than positive.

In the situation Sherry describes, it's going to be tricky for anyone to help the kids in a positive uplifting way because any outside interference will likely trigger abuse towards the outsider, and self-justification, etc. on the part of the parents.

Darion Alexander said...

I have to catch myself as well at times. But it's interesting, my father used to tell me, "don't make the same mistakes I've made." And that has stuck with me ever since. I don't physically abuse my children or any kind of it, because I always reflect, in those moments where I have to discipline my children, what I went through and it helps. The words of Benson also helped out a great deal because I finally realized that it wasn't me or anything I did, it was a cycle that was handed down to my parents from their parents and so forth. I remember feeling alive when I was young and I heard that General Conference talk from President Benson and have always adhered to his words.
It also helps when the Church continually promotes moral standards and continually does so in the face of an immoral world. For those of us that adhere to these standards and the Gospel, we are blessed.
You've got to be smarter than the average duck.

Tianna said...

Thanks for posting this analogy!

Bookslinger said...

We have a lot of Canadian geese in Indianapolis. Both the "passing through" kind and the "year 'round" kind. They make much better parents than do ducks. They are more protective of their young than are ducks.

I just saw a family moving their young. One parent was in front leading, and the other was bringing up the rear. I don't think you see that with ducks.