Lessons From a Mother Goose

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A busy country road. My car was one in a line of cars. A mother goose visiting from Canada cared for her goslings off to the side. Green grass. A small pond. Insects galore. Everything they needed was there with her. But something had gone wrong and the three down-covered babies were veering for the road. 

The mama, sensing the danger, came running from behind, wings spread in utter fear. She flapped vigorously to stop her children’s deadly flight. She knew. She understood. Whether she grappled the fullness of the danger. The cars. The tires. The rush. She understood enough for it to strike fear in her heart.  

But as she squawked and flapped in a frenzy to warn her babies of the coming danger, they became confused and ran closer to the edge of the grass, closer to the edge of safety. The babies, sensing their mother’s panic, misread the flapping wings and ran in the wrong direction. Instead of drawing her babies away from the danger, the mama bird was driving them into it. 

My car passed, forced by the traffic to drive on. I strained to see them through my rearview mirror, but I never knew the outcome for that little family. However, I thought about that mother goose throughout the day. How her actions had the opposite effect she had intended. And how her driving fear and panic became a sure shot for devastation. 

Would it not have been better, I thought, had she walked herself away from the danger and allowed the train of goslings to follow? For that is what goslings are apt to do. If she had chosen, herself, to travel closer to safety, closer to the provisions already before her, they would have joined her there.

I thought about my own children. And I thought about me. I considered the confusion squawking and flapping often brings in my own life and for my own little flock. How my quick reaction can often lead to a failure to assess, to listen, and to understand fully the heart needs of my child. The chaos takes over. The desperation to act on impulse. And in the end, my own anxiety can often create the exact opposite response from my children. That instead of protecting them, I might be pushing them away. 

But the dangers around them are so real. So crushing at times, like the wheels on a ton of metal. Panic is natural, especially when our little goslings become juveniles with a propensity to wander. 

But are we leading or are we driving? 

Are we pushing them toward danger rather than from it with our tactics of parenting? Our panic. Our quick reaction. Our flapping wings. The warning signs of danger should be there—they have purpose—but, like that mama goose, not all responses are profitable. 

Driving can often be more dangerous than trusting they will follow our own steps if we lead in the right direction.

Where are we walking? Close to the edge? Mingling with the traffic? They will follow. And when our flapping and squawking begins they will say, “but you brought me here.” 

But if we show the way to life and hope and peace, if we fix our eyes on those things that are true, noble, pure, and lovely, and walk in them ourselves, our children will follow even when they stray.