A few days ago, while driving down the road with my youngest two in the back of the 1987 Chevy Astro, I noticed a car slowing in front of me. Two women standing at a bus stop were pointing and laughing and so, I slowed, too. The car in front of me sped up and so I could clearly see the spectacle slowing traffic. A mother duck and her four ducklings waddled from the middle of the busy residential street to the edge, as I waited with my foot pressed to the brake while frantically digging in my purse for my camera.
I pulled out the camera just as the little procession reached safety.
The image of that mama duck and her babies has remained in my mind, though. Her ducklings followed, hovered close to her feathered sides, didn’t run off, didn’t fight with their brothers, didn’t refuse to do grammar because it is so boring.
I’m nothing like that duck mom. Today, as a matter of fact, I would have thrown my letter of resignation at my boss, only, uh, I don’t have a boss and I can’t resign. Instead, I slammed the door and strode outside, first to the driveway where I stood by the lilacs, and then up the street a few houses where I noticed a gentle spring breeze and wondered if the neighbors were looking at the wild-haired lady in her moccasin slippers wandering the neighborhood. All the windows really did seem like eyeballs behind sunglasses, staring at me.
I didn’t go far, of course, because I was keenly aware of the littler ones in my house and also cognizant of the fact that my teenagers would keep an eye on the little kids even though those very same teenagers, well, one of those teenagers, had caused me to flee into the street, question my very status of a competent mother and resolve to turn in my Homeschooling Mother Card once and for all.
I CAN’T DO THIS! I shrieked to myself, as loudly as one can shriek inside one’s head on the street in the middle of the morning while worrying about neighbors calling the police to report a raving lunatic strolling the streets.
My son, The Reluctant Student, has some issues, some undiagnosed issues having to do with paying attention and retaining information and organization. I don’t need a label to know that he struggles with what comes naturally and easily to me and his twin brother. He sometimes stays focused and tries, but this week he’s been derailed. The picture of him as a railroad car literally off the rails, unable to move forward or backward, blocking the rest of the train from moving fills me with pity and understanding, but also frustration because we need to keep moving. Moving forward, heading toward the finish line, hurry, hurry, hurry!
When I hurry him, he resists.
I used to think that raising children was all about nurturing them properly and creating the right environment. I see now how much genetic predisposition influences and even controls behavior. I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle, like a salmon swimming upstream who finally encounters an impassable dam.
So, between a difficult morning of grammar (adverbial phrases, anyone?) and my daughter who spends every waking moment either changing her clothes or interrupting me or demanding Cheetos, I really did decide I am not cut out for this mothering gig. Really. I quit. DO YOU HEAR ME? I’M NOT COMING IN TOMORROW! I QUIT!
Blink. Blink-blink. Okay, fine. In two weeks, I’m outta here, for sure. I’m going to get a job cleaning chimneys or muck-raking cow stalls or deep-sea fishing on an Alaskan fishing boat . . . something easy like that.
If I were a mother duck and my kids were those ducklings, today they totally would have been squished by a car. Tomorrow, maybe they will be all fluffy and yellow and quiet and cute. One can hope.
(My son just sent me this instant-message: “GOING TO TRUN OFF NOW MOM GOOD NIGHT I HEART U =) AND ALSO SORRY FOR TODAY.” Okay. Fine. Whatever. I’m in for one more day.)