Sunday, December 11, 2016

Battle Hymn of the Sea Otter Mom

Some years ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix. I don't really care for documentaries, and I don't spend a lot of my time in front of the TV anymore. But there I was, watching a documentary on sea otters with my family. The documentary focused on a young female sea otter about to have her first pup.

She gave birth on a pier amongst some ropes and nets. Volunteers stood guard, keeping tourists and locals a safe distance away from the pair. The documentarians then detailed how the mother taught her pup to wrap herself up in seaweed so as to not float away, how to hit shells on the hulls of boats to break them (the shells) open, and how to find shell fish under the pier. It was interesting to see the mother adapt her training to urbanization.

Suddenly, in a M. Night Shyamalan turn of events, the mother was gone. The narrator told us she had been killed by an aggressive male otter! The baby sea otter was on her own. The narrator asked, "Did this baby sea otter's mother, in three short months, have enough time to teach her baby what she needs to know in order to survive?"

The documentary had our full attention as we rooted for this little otter.

Full disclosure: I cried. I looked at my children and cried. I'd been their mother for much, much, much longer than three months - but have I taught them enough?

As a young mother I spent too much time teaching them what not to do -
Don't pick your nose
Don't touch that
Don't ask so many questions
Don't do anything risky
Don't expect too much and you won't get disappointed

Child number four opened my eyes.

He insisted on taking risks - and his crazy risks were rewarded with success and opportunity. He opened our family up to yes, to dreams, and to hope. By eight he was somersaulting out of the big bowl at the skate park. By seventeen he was off touring Europe with the high school band. Since then, his brother has lived abroad. His sister has toured Europe, I've traveled overseas. And four of my kids took took a crazy trip to New York to see Hamilton on Broadway. My default answer is no longer "no" but "how". This has been a better way to raise my kids.

My kids are now mostly grown, but I look at them and know that there is so much more I can teach them. I can teach them to serve others, to be aware of the world around them. I can teach them the power of prayer and faith.


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