Ever have a gut feeling while raising children? Listen to it!
I named him Chester. A plucky little Canada goose that was given to me shortly after he’d been rescued. He came to live with us as a pre-teen, and no one was sure what this little scruff was as he scrambled between my feet everywhere I went– I had to protect him from the cat, dog and adopted duck that shared our property.
He spent hours with me as I weeded and watered the garden, learned to swim with my son in the swimming hole, (spending more time playing under water than floating on top, as they will) and came to learn every nook and cranny of the property that was his new home.
It wasn’t long before we became a quick study of each other’s grunts and coos. And just as I had done with my own children, I soon gained the ability to interpret each of his sounds. When we would lose sight of each other, he would call me, honking, as if to holler, “Mom? Where are you?” and I’d answer him, “I’m over here!” and he’d come running.
When he was old enough to sleep outside the safety of his pen all night, I’d be awakened by a cooing love song, right below the bedroom window– at 5 a.m! My husband would roll over and moan, “Your adopted son is calling you, he probably wants breakfast.” So, clad in slippers and nightgown, I would sleepily pad my way to the back deck and he’d fly to meet me at the door, fluffing his wings and calling, “gook, gooook!”, as if to scold me for taking so long.
In the summertime, Sundays were spent relaxing in a lawn chair with the local paper and Chester. He was worse than any two year old wanting mom’s attention. Sneaking up behind me, he’d pull a strand of my long pony-tail, and if that didn’t work, he’d peck at my pop can. When all else failed, he’d grab my paper in his beak and run off. Eventually he would win; I would give up and take him to the creek to enjoy a swim, or appease him with an apple off the tree.
Each day Chester would follow me on the trail through the woods as I took my morning walk. My neighbor would wave to me and call out, “Well, well, there goes Mother Goose!”
After a while, the question began to arise: “When will he fly?”
As a concerned mother, I began to worry that his wings wouldn’t develop enough strength to carry his increasing body weight. Determined that my little goose turn out normal, I slowly began to increase my pace during our daily walk. Chester would stretch out his wings and run behind me in a desperate effort to keep up. Jogging ahead of him, my heart would break as he called out, “Gook, goooook!” as if to say, “Wait, mom, why are you doing this?”, but I kept at it, staying just out of his reach, until he finally extended his wings to their fullest, beating the air and he taking his first flight!
I was so excited, I almost fell into a blackberry bush cheering and applauding him! As if to let me know it was his idea and not mine, he flew over just high enough to pass me, but low enough to give me a good thunk on the back of the head with one of his wings! We then ran and flew up the trail to the house to show off for the others. “I taught Chester to fly!” I bragged to my husband. He smiled that smile I’ve come to know as, “Sure, Honey!”
Chester’s flying was the beginning of his arrival into young adulthood. Like most teens announcing their arrival on the scene, he became belligerent and obstinate. Thinking the world revolved around him, he began to let me know he thought his schedule was the most important, and that it was an honor when he allowed me to be with him.
He no longer cooed at me, but hollered as if he was always angry with me. Loving him as only a step-mother could, I allowed him his annoying efforts toward independence. As he moved into the role of terrorizing all the farm animals and visitors to our home, we worried no one would survive his “coming of age.”
It was round this time that I was encouraged to set him free into the wilderness– for his own good, of course. Although I didn’t feel he was ready, after much persuasion, I reluctantly agreed. We drove him to a near-by pond where we knew Canada Geese habitually gathered.
Willingly, he got out of the truck to go swimming. Once in the water he attempted to socialize, only to be run off by males that were guarding females on nests. He kept returning to me on the side of the pond. Convinced by my husband I was keeping him from adjusting, I climbed into the truck. I protested that he was scared, and that I shouldn’t leave him, but my husband’s logic won out and we finally began the drive home.
As we turned onto the highway, I heard the familiar “gook, gooook!” and I looked out the window. There he was, following the truck high in the sky, crying out after us with his “wait for me” honk. I began to panic. He was untrained for this. There was no way his wings were strong enough to sustain the six-mile flight home.
Just as I thought, he soon landed in the middle of the highway, continuing his cries: “Gook, gooook!!”
I yelled at my husband, “Stop! He’s going to get hit!”
As he pulled the truck to the side of the road, I leapt out and called desperately to him, “Gook, gooook!” in the best ‘come here call’ I could manage. We made eye contact and just as he’d taken two strokes with his wings into the air, he was hit broadside by a car going 55 miles per hour.
The next scene looked like a feather bed exploding before my eyes. I was devastated, dropping to my knees and sobbing, “I killed him! He trusted me, and I killed him!”
My husband was quick on his feet. He ran to him on the road, gathering him up and bringing him back to me. “What do you want to do with him?” he asked.
I looked at my poor, broken little goose. He was still alive, but bleeding profusely from a chest wound, and I could tell his leg was broken in several places.
“We need to take him home, and let him die in his own pen.” I replied, gathering him into my arms. Chester laid his head on my chest, his quiet noises mixing with my sobs.
As we reached home, he went into serious shock. Knowing the end was near, I called the vet, and was told there was nothing that could be done for him and we needed to consider putting him down. The tears ran down my cheeks and I apologized to him over and over. I sat in his pen for two days attempting to nurse him back to health.
But don’t go grabbing the tissue just yet! Chester managed to pull through– barely, but he did. And although he now walks with a permanent limp, ten years have passed and he still rules the yard!
All in all, I learned some valuable lessons from this goose-raising expedition! The main one? In a world that moves our children from infants to adulthood in record time, I learned to trust my instincts. I no longer allow others that don’t spend as much time with my children to dictate what — and when — is best for them.
Today’s children are making decisions that have potentially life-threatening consequences before they’ve even learned to manage their acne. Life readiness arrives on individual, perfectly timed body-clocks that get out of sync when they’re sped up or slowed down. As the “flight trainer”, one of my many jobs is to determine when, exactly, my children are ready for flight. It works the same way with you: You too must become the best flight trainer your children have got to get them into the sky.
First Published in Wisdom Pills