The mallards are back. The hen is on her nest, the drake there most days too. The two of them slowly paddling, they fly across the road sometimes, I think the eating is better in the marsh. Most days I see them.
On Sunday my little family took a raft on the pond. It is too small for much but a perfect place to search for snails or tadpoles. The kids took their butterfly nets, a bucket. We could not stay though. My dog, who is rather large, would not stop hassling that hen on her nest. And she would not flee. She would dive and squawk and flutter and flap but she would not go more than five feet away. This hen would not leave her eggs, would not cower to any old dog, she was willing to risk her neck for those ducklings. Samwise kept at it, tail wagging with the joy of the chase.
Mothers are like that. The way they throw themselves in harm’s way. The way they will do anything to protect their young. I’m feeling it this week. Feeling so much like they are sheep among wolves.
A few days ago, my daughter asked me if I knew the very worst word in the world. And I said, ‘no, what is it’. Up till now, the very worst word has been stupid so when she looked me straight in the eye and dropped the ‘f bomb’ in the middle of the living room, I was a little taken a back. There is nothing uglier off the tongue of a little person and I was amazed at how it sounded. How it rubbed some of the gloss off. “The boys taught me in the cloak room” she said. She wore two pigtails to school today, a shirt with kittens on it. Oh God let them be little…
On the way home from school last night, my boy told me that his little friend had to go see the judge because he ate too many drugs. “It is like what happens when you drink too much pop”, he says. This boy doesn’t live with his parents now, I guess this is why. My heart is still up into my throat when we get home and I plan to hold up in the woods for a few days. Let us dig a mote, build impermeable fortresses. Let us imagine that there are dragons to slay and pirates to fight shall we? I don’t want you to know about the real beasts of our world.
Not just yet.
But I won’t stay here long. Safety only exists in fairy tales, the land beyond the sea.
Besides, am I not at least as brave as a duck?
You see every fence I build, every wall I erect throws another child to the wolves, creates one more wildling. Every time I think I am protecting my kids from something, could I actually be putting them at greater risk? The shootings and stabbings, the kids left outside our great fortresses are being ravaged, they can’t do it alone. We see it all the time in youth. The kids left lingering around the outside. The kids, who by no action of their own, have never learned to swim, have never played a soccer game, have never had a family meal, don’t know what homemade gravy tastes like. The kids for whom the world is too dark, too dangerous they get fierce there on the outside. But they don’t have to…
I am throwing open our doors. Putting down the draw bridge. That empty seat in my car? I want to fill it. That empty place at my dinner table? I want to set it. I want to be someone these kids can trust. I want to be a bright spot in their dark days. I want them to know that we believe in them.
I know this is too simple. That when gates are open, the wild sneaks in and sometimes unsuspecting sheep get eaten up. I know that a mind can corrupt even under the very best of care. Still. I think we can do better. I think we can be as innocent as doves even while the wolves are howling. I think we can teach our kids to be wise AND loving. Brave AND gentle.
We were sent. Let us not hide. Let us dance around these eggs, let us trick the wolves; shrewd and pure but NEVER afraid.