Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Natural Instincts

My home borders a 730-acre park lush with giant trees, miles of walking trails and a picturesque lake that wanders under several stone bridges. The park is home to countless animals and feathered friends, many who make their way just beyond park borders.

Last week I rounded the bend into my neighborhood and lightly tapped my brakes in order to stop for a duck lounging in the middle of the road. Fifteen feet to her left, her six baby ducklings sat in a perfect circle as if they were preschoolers waiting for their afternoon snack.

My daughter, Grace, and I sat quietly and watched them for a few minutes while Mother Duck sized us up from afar. When Grace opened her door to get a closer look, Mother Duck quickly rose to her webbed feet and waddled toward her brood squawking loudly. All six dutifully stumbled to their tiny feet as well. Within seconds she whisked her babies off safely into the woods. I was impressed. Why don't my kids always move that fast when I try to get them going?

I thought back to a troubling story I had read earlier in the day. According to new reports out of Florida, a two-year-old was removed from the home of her mother, Swazikki Davis, earlier this month after a series of unexplained physical injuries. While the two-year-old was placed in foster care, her one-year-old brother, Ezekiel Mathis, remained with their mom while an investigation was initiated. Fifteen days later he was dead at the hands of her boyfriend after allegedly being thrown against a dresser and pounded on his back.

What is it that makes a mother unwilling or unable to protect her baby? Isn't there a natural instinct that roars to life when we sense our offspring are in danger? Mother Duck has it. Why didn't Swazikki Davis have it? Or somewhere along the line did she lose it during her own childhood experience of abuse, neglect and subsequent placement in foster care?

Even seven-year-old Lexi had a natural instinct to feed and care for her two younger brothers when she was just four years old herself. She had a hard time letting go of her adult responsibilities when the three of them were (thankfully) placed in a foster home together. Weeks later she cried and cried as her foster parents put her to bed. They cried too when she thanked them for taking care of 'her boys'.

I definitely have that protective instinct when it comes to my kids. You have it too when it comes to yours. And ultimately, children like Lexi and Ezekiel's sister are our children too, at least while they are under the jurisdiction of a court and wards of the state.

Your children need you.