I'm frazzled and fatigued this morning. Waiting for my son to return last night went from bad to worse; the text that he was on his way, or in his words "about to" leave at 11 turned into 1:30, but then only at my badgering and behest. We did our regular dance; his pathetic apology, my speech about common courtesy sadly amped up and ramped up to yelling. Yes, I see the inconsistency.
Why do I still wait up for a relatively responsible 19 year-old college student? Is it hormonal or habit? It is part maternal, part defensive; hoping to sleep uninterrupted once he has returned to the nest, rather than the fitful half-shifts between hot flashes, Craig Ferguson and his early AM arrival. Am I just hard-wired to worry? Or just more likely to admit to it?
On the side of mothering, I read the regular and prolific reports of DUI arrests around the Lake Minnetonka area and wonder will this be the night that a sloppy driver crosses the line on that narrow, winding road back from his latest late-night event. I have more faith in him than his fellow road companions. And do the mothers whose sons dodge bullets on a daily basis find it all laughable?
Please note it was Sunday, after my husband has been at work for half the day of rest and before he leaves at the crack of dawn for (insert city or country).
And for that matter what does this all have to do with wood ducks?
Last week my daughter alerted me to the wood ducks and their broods over at the creek. Since then we've been watching their progress as they learn the ropes of foraging and feeding themselves under the watchful, decorative eye of their mothers.
The wood duck is also known as the summer duck in some parts. They raise their young later than other waterfowl in sync with the berries and acorns that supplement the insects of their diet. They are the only duck to nest above the water in hollowed out trees or the nesting boxes that have helped them come back from environmental lists of concern.
While the mallards are like the Taurus of ducks, you might say the wood duck, or at least the colorful, crested male may be the Maserati. He is sleek and showy, adorned with feathers that give him a certain jaunty flourish as he glides through the water. He returns to the family unit in the fall after the messy business of mothering is done.The female is drabber and while I know it's presumptuous to affix human feeling to birds, she has a put-upon look, or perhaps a too-often-tweezed look of surprise about her white-ringed brow.
She is vigilant as she guides her small flock through the lily pads in search of dinner every evening around 8 o'clock. The two families are about a week apart in development and the older group is allowed more leeway from their mother. She keeps them at a slightly longer length as they toddle atop the floating leaves and topple clumsily back into the water.
Before the ducklings reach this stage, the female wood duck lines her high-top nest with feathers from her own breast; bringing new elevation to the image of self-sacrificing mothers everywhere. The thin feathers stand out in contrast to her barred wings giving her the same frayed look I now wear while writing this at the local coffee shop. I know, that after the wee-hour madness, I will fade sometime after lunch, and although I don't have an official job, I will be hard-pressed to do my menial chores much less my meaningful work.
In a moment of counter-intuitive method, the mother wood duck literally launches her babies from the lofty nest and straight into the water, and then anti-climactically tends and teaches them to survive on their own.
I watch her warn them as they scatter from the beaver as he makes his nightly round for roots and lily shoots. A vegetarian, he is not on their predator list but still she exhorts her little ones to scurry across the leaves. Once again, I wonder am I admonishing my son about a phantom danger like this, a red herring in the real race to become a young adult. A mother has to ask, how do I help him, forgive the tired expression, test his wings without putting him in harm's way that I might regret for a lifetime?
I know that not every child comes home after a midnight boat ride, a pre-dawn car trip, among the possibly and quite probably inebriated people that are sharing the street, not to mention the teenagers that might be texting their own worried moms.
Last night he did come home safe after those activities and I sit here with his car key and cell phone that I confiscated last night in my fit of powerlessness over the whole dilemna feeling stupid and without a clue.
Within his group of friends there are other examples of parenting; some stricter and some more lenient than the rest and in the end they are all great kids; but who have yet to empathize with the old-as-time parenting quandaries that beset us. Did I do this to my parents and is it just a case of rinse-lather-repeat? Still we compare war stories and while the issues are different they are all about this coming of age conundrum.
I know there are other parents that are experiencing the same situation. In fact the Star Trib wrote an article about the awkward and testy "summer reunion" of parent and college-student. Yet I felt it offered little advice; aside from the fact that these almost-adults resent the micro-managing of their lives. But could they manage their life without the car, the phone, the computer, the tuition that we pay? Have our relationships become business-like in that we provide only goods and services and not good will?
After airing my laundry and baring my heart, I'd like to hear constructive or instructive thoughts on the subject. Have you come to terms with the complexity of this perplexing period in the lives of our growing children?