Thursday, May 19, 2011

Parenting on the Edge

(not my geese - photo from

I see her nearly every time I drive down this particular stretch of road.  She stands between the small lake and Marshall Road, with her mate nearby.  Their gazes seems to shift back and forth between the babies and the road, making sure they don't venture out suddenly.  At times, this mama goose and her man stand right on the edge of the road with babies in line as if waiting for an opportune time to cross.  I often cringe as I drive by, sometimes shouting in my head, "why on earth don't you move those little babies!?!".

These geese are living on the edge of a dangerous world...a moment of impulsive-gosling-road-dashing and their family size could diminish by one or two.  Yet those geese clearly love (as much as a goose can) their little babes and are doing their best to keep them safe in the place they have made home.  Oddly enough, I see other geese doing the exact same things along the sides of other roads and lakes.  It seems like the goose thing to do.

As a mom of my three amazing kids, I can relate to that mama goose.  In today's world, we are really living right on the edge of a dangerous world.  There are potential risks around every corner, aren't there?  Yesterday, in fact, I had a wee scare when I couldn't quickly find one of my kids who went outside just before dinner, leaving the immediate area without letting me know.  We searched in the house, we looked in the front and back of the house, and then I hopped on my bike and took a little ride through the neighborhood, knocking on one friend's door.  Although I knew my kiddo was likely fine, my mind started to jump to the possible dangers... what if he got hit by a car?  what if he wandered off to one of the lakes or ponds and somehow fell in?  what if someone grabbed him?  what if he rode his bike the wrong way and got disoriented?  what if....?

Thankfully, as I was heading back to the house, thinking I'd have to call Ken home early from a meeting, I heard his familiar voice call out, "hey mom!" as he came out of an empty lot that he'd been biking in (behind dirt mounds so that he was not easily seen and did not see me).   I was relieved, thankful, and a little ornary.  The relief and thankfulness won out over the ornary and I was able to calmly yet firmly express my concerns and remind my kiddo about rules and dangers and expectations. "I just don't want anything to happen to you," I kept repeating.

Some days, I feel like I just want to isolate my kids...take them and my hubby and move to some remote corner of the world where they can't be touched or tainted by the world and the influences therein.  I want to protect them from those who might bully them.  I want to protect them from the creepy guy who might suggest they send him something highly inappropriate on their cell phone.  I want to protect them from adults who think it's okay to do drugs with young kids, even their own children.  I want to protect them from the hurt that causes a suicide attempt that resulted in permanent brain damage.  I want to protect them from pressure or decisions that results in a 15 year old raising her 5 month old and, therefore, having a really tough time making it to school every day and living a typical teenage life.  I want to protect them from so many things that I encounter on a regular basis in the schools I work in (yes, those are all stories from my school, all of which occurred within the last few months).  And, I want to protect them from the things that just happen in life.  I wish I could take them and isolate them...but I can't.

When Ken and I were in Florida we learned about a certain bird nesting in the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.  I'm not positive, but I think it was a yellow-crowned night heron.  Besides being a beautiful bird, it had a unique nesting strategy.  It chose to nest above the place where alligators often lie or nest, even if it was right next to the road.  The naturalist said that it nested above an alligator because the alligator keeps away other predators that could more easily sneak into the tree to steal an egg or a baby bird.  He said, although the birds had to be careful not to knock an egg or baby down to the alligator below, they would go to any length to keep those eggs and babies safe, even if it meant a less than comfortable place for them, above an alligator and next to the only road going through the refuge.  Funny that they would choose to live next to a road and above an alligator, rather than find a comfy quiet nest in the middle of the refuge or on a sunny spot (my favorite) in a mangrove tree at the edge of the water.  But, they somehow know that the seemingly most comfortable place isn't the best place for them to be.

As a mom, I would go to any length to keep my babies safe.  And yet, I need to live in the world where we are placed or where we have been led.  I clearly can't take them and isolate them away from the world...within that response, there would only be perceived safety.  I can't be with them every minute of every day - that certainly wouldn't be a safe idea for anybody, we would allll go a little crazy and make some not so great choices, I'm sure (chuckle chuckle) - they need the opportunity to make choices, grow and learn on their own, developing outside relationships along the way.  Part of keeping my babies safe is helping them to learn to navigate the world independently.

I can't isolate my children from the world.  But, I can love and protect my children as best I can, standing guard along the side the edge of the dangerous world (or, more precisely, in the dangerous world), watching for traffic and sending out warnings when necessary, ensuring they learn all the things they need to to become confident, caring adults of good character.  I can encourage them in their faith and help lay foundations of integrity, justice, humility, caring, and good choice making.  I can pray for them and pray with them.  I can point them to the One who created them.  I can hold their hands when they need me to and step out of their way when I should.  I can love them unconditionally, even when I don't like the condition of a choice they made.  I can provide a place to call home and a place to always come home to.  I can walk hand in hand with my husband as we parent, sharing in the joys and the frustrations, trusting that we both want the same things for our children.  I can ask others for help or encouragement when I need it to be the best mommy that I can be.  I can admit my mistakes and learn from them - and there are many to learn from.  And, perhaps more than anything, I can trust that God is with me through every step I take as a parent...even if, in a moment, I feel alone standing on the edge of something bigger than I can handle on my own.  He has gifted me with these three babes and wants the very best for them.

My three during our S'more cookout.  S'mores are really just the best!

I would love to relocate that sweet goose family to a place that seems safer than the side of a busy road.  My guess is they would find their way right back to where they are now.  It must be just the right place for them.  I won't relocate them, but I will expectantly watch for them each time I drive past.  And, I will hope with great hope that they grow up safe and sound, ready to return next year.

If you have a babe of your own, give them an extra squeeze from me.  If you don't have a babe of your own, encourage someone who does.  And, as always, thanks for reading!


  1. Wow Kathy, you nailed how I have been feeling lately. With one starting kindergarten in the fall and a 2 yr old boy who is sure he already knows more than his mommy, I frequently fight the urge the lock them safely away and preserve their beautifully delicate little hearts. It really would be easier to fight all of their battles for them than it is to stand by and watch their hearts break or their hopes dashed. Every day I realize more layers of truth to the statement that mommy-hood is the hardest job in the world but it is true too that God honors our efforts. The rewards of mommy-hood are awesomely proportional to the work we put in. Of course tomorrow I will be fighting that urge again...

  2. Kathy
    You are an amazing author. I loved every word no matter how scary and true. I loved this so much I forwarded this to my 2 children.
    Thanks, Janette another Yellow crowned night heron!

  3. Michelle - I wish I could sit and chat with you about all this in person. I miss those chats, as few and far in between as they were, they were always rich. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Janette - Thanks for the encouragement and for sharing the blog with your kids! I hope you will stop by again some time.


Share your thoughts, feelings, or your own related experiences. I love that! And, as always, thanks for stopping by!