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The ducks slipped silently through the water, widening ripples in their wake broke the reflection of sky and trees on the surface of the pond. A mother duck and six ducklings were swimming along by the wooden dock, dabbling in the weeds and chasing after bits of bread the children tossed for them.
Our three tossed bread to each duck, marveling at how the little ducks shot out to catch the bread, dove headfirst into the water to snatch the sinking bits before they were out of reach. Hubby and I stood against the wooden rail, soaking in the sun and watching the children, laughing at the ducks.
I watched the mother duck and her babies carefully for awhile. The babies darted out in all directions after the bread, one or two slipped farther out than the others. The mother dove for bits of bread, but her focus never left the six ducklings. She sat still among the weaving, flapping little family, an anchor that they swam to and from as they played and ate. Every now and then a few ducklings wandered farther out from the group, or all six went a little farther away from their mother than she was comfortable with. A quite little sound from her was all they needed, instantly six little ducklings obediently returned to her side in a tight little feathered knot.
Obedience! Six little ducks, a hundred different directions, and all it took was one warning for them to all fall into line. I’ve seen it before…a line of ducklings following their mother to and fro, never getting out of step. I got me thinking about obedience and how important it is in raising our children. For the mother duck, her children’s obedience means everything. A duckling that fails to heed its mother’s call is one that won’t live long! A gliding hawk, a passing fox, a cold night spent alone…any duckling that strays far from its mother will very likely meet its demise. In the animal world, there are no disobedient children. They obey, or they fail to and die young.
It’s a sobering thought. Are we humans that much different? In past generations, we kept our children under strict obedience. They were expected to respond quickly and obediently to our call, they were taught to be respectful and to respond to the requests of their parents. In much the same way that a wandering duckling is in danger, a child wandering too far from his parents out on the prairie frontier was in imminent danger. In biblical times, a child’s obedience was valued so much that many proverbs were written to remind us of the importance of this matter. Obedience was essential to existence, and disobedience was therefore a serious issue.
What about today? I have the feeling that we have been lulled into a false sense of security. Our children don’t face many of the life-or-death situations that they might have in past generations, and disobedience seems more of an irritant than a serious threat to the well being of our children. We have distractions today to keep our children busy…video games, television, lessons and sports and after school activities. We leave our children to computers, electronics, or other people’s care and when we’re together as a family we let “small” matters of disobedience slide in the interest of family harmony. As a consequence, children are expected to be disobedient today. We tolerate it, we foster it with our actions and our inactions, and we don’t think too much of the consequences. After all, nowadays things are different. Disobedience doesn’t seem as threatening as it did a hundred years ago.
What a pitfall we’ve been led into! The truth is, obedience is just as important now as it was then, and it is just as vital to our children as it is to the ducklings. If we don’t expect our children to be obedient, and if we don’t spend time teaching them the things they will need later in life, we are essentially abandoning them to the foxes and hawks of the world. Chances are good that they will make it through childhood, but if they don’t have the tools they need as a young adult they will fall prey to one disaster or another. Drugs, drunk driving, hanging out with a dangerous crowd, premarital sex, bad grades, financial problems….all pitfalls that our children will face as young adults. They will be faced with choices and situations in life, and the way we train them now will directly influence their behaviour in the future. Either we have done our job and, like the ducklings, our children will know to snap back to safety before it’s too late, or we haven’t… and they won’t.
The next time I run into an obedience issue with my children, I am going to remind myself of the family of ducks. It’s easier to look the other way and let things go, but it’s critical to the well being of my children to make sure they stay in line.