And after a bath with his favorite rubber duckies, my imaginative little boy transformed into a duck. He requested that we build a nest, so I obliged by constructing a cocoon of blankets and quilts on our couch. He gathered an armful of toys (despite my protests that ducks do not have plastic cars and trucks in their homes) and settled himself to spend a large portion of the morning in his cozy nest. Naturally, I was appointed the Mumma Duck, while Hayden was the Baby Duckling, and Donny himself was the Brother Duck. I was amused by the game, especially since "Duck" is the nickname I have affectionately bestowed on my husband - you know, being named Donald and all. But although Daddy Duck was at work during our play, the duck family continued to grow, as Donny petitioned the Mumma to lay some eggs in order to supply more ducklings.
Did you ever notice that the requirements of parenting include becoming an instant expert in every subject? In between asking a myriad of questions about fire trucks - inspired by the battery-operated toy in his hand - Donny taxed the limits of my knowledge on the ways of waterfowl. He demanded to know "what else" they eat after I had named all the duck treats I could think of. He also said something about the Mumma Duck taking the baby for a ride, so I explained that the babies don't ride on the mother duck's back; they have to fly on their own. "What if the mumma duck doesn't teach them how to fly?" Donny wanted to know.
"She does," I said. "It's part of her job to teach the baby ducks how to fly."
It seemed like there might be a metaphor behind my simple statement. As the mother duck of this family, I see to it that our ducklings are warm, fed, and safe in the nest. But eventually, the ducklings must learn to fly. My thoughts were fitting for such a day, as I pondered what it is that Donny needs from me. Besides meeting his physical and emotional needs and providing a nurturing home, Daddy Duck and I must teach him how to maneuver through this dizzying world. And though I make no claims to be a duck expert, I am confident that Mumma Duck does not use lectures to teach her young to fly. She shows them. And they fly together.
My thoughts reminded me of another duck-themed post that touched my heart, and another source of my limited knowledge of duckish ways. "What a Mother Must Sacrifice" taught me that mother ducks line their nests with feathers plucked from their own breasts. They sacrifice bits of themselves to support their young. They give, not of ragged old feathers from the ground, but of their own soft, warm down. Is this not what my little ones need from me? Not my leftover scraps of time for training and teaching and play, but my sacrifices. They need my attention so that instead of just telling them how to live, I can show them. I can strengthen our relationship with times of imaginative play and incidental learning and demonstrating the sacrifices that are inherent in real Christian love.
As I tucked my own ducklings into bed that night, wrapping them up in pieces of our morning nest, Hayden requested two songs. "Jesus Loves Me" came first, and then one of his favorites, "Six Little Ducks." Normally the merry tune of ducks wibble-wabbling to and fro seems unsuited for a lullaby, but this time, I agreed to sing about the little duck with the feather on his back. My sweet little ducklings, what a privilege it is to tuck you into our nest and watch you drift off to sleep in peaceful contentment. And Lord, help me to give willingly of myself, my time, my attention, my example. Help me to mold these precious ducklings into men who fly on eagle's wings.
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. - Isaiah 40:31