Monday, September 17, 2012

Moms Are Moms No Matter the Species

            Each spring’s cycle of birth and renewal reminds me that all mothers are essentially alike.  One look at a momma cow with her calf lets you know you don’t want to mess with her baby. 

Over decades, my students have written many essays detailing results of interfering with young animals.  Mothers aren’t only tender.  They are tough when necessary.  Just a few days ago, a family of fledgling wrens reminded of how much my family is like theirs.

            After recent rains, I was checking my greenery to see how plants were growing under the unusual wet conditions.  Our portion of the creek had gone dry, and our buffalo grass couldn’t have been more dormant.  I didn’t know if it was too late to save the foliage or not.  An old grape vine down by the creek particularly interested me.

            While I counted clusters and imagined jars of wild grape jelly, a rising crescendo disturbed my reverie.   Since we have a wren family living off the back porch, I recognized the “shirring” and scolding. However, I had never heard so many wrens in an uproar at one time.
            Evidently, I interrupted a mother and her fledglings as she taught them to find their own insect dinners.  Not six feet behind me was a rotten log just loaded with tasty morsels for her and her babies.  I interfered not only with her lesson, but also with some high quality dining.

            Not meaning to threaten them, I quietly turned to watch this mom and her young. Apparently, even my statue-like presence created too much of a threat because she “shirred” and scolded more intensely.  Like many a child I have seen in the grocery store’s candy counter turning its back and ignoring its scolding mother, these juvenile wrens did exactly that.  They looked at mom and then at me.  Then they returned to finding crunchy bugs.

            This drove the mother nuts.  She flitted away and back and away again.  With each flit, her tone intensified at least an octave.  I am not a wren, but I understood what she meant.  Finally, all but one of the little birds reluctantly left the dinner table to fly to shelter.  I couldn’t see them, but I could hear mom and fledglings’ raucous comments.  Nobody in that tree was happy.

            That left one little wren at the log.  Most families have one child that doesn’t learn from others’ experiences.  This little fellow wasn’t concerned that mom and now siblings were fussing because it hadn’t fled the threat with them.  Its mother intensified her vocalizations and still didn’t receive a second look.

            I know how Momma Wren felt since we recently fledged a youngster.  As our daughters moved into adulthood, I find myself apologizing to my mother or thanking her for being so patient with me.  It is no easy task letting children go, especially those who must learn through experience.

            Finally, my mother’s heart couldn’t take Momma Wren’s frantic cries any longer. Since her baby wouldn’t respond, I left, removing the threat that alarmed her.  As I walked away, I recalled my own mother’s wish for me: I hope that baby wren has a young one just like it.  

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