Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Attentive Parent

One morning this past summer, I was working at my desk and looked out the window to see a mother turkey walking across the backyard, her bevy of poults scurrying along in a disorganized line behind her. The group of them hugged the edge of the yard, with the safety of the tall grass and shrubs to one side, and the fuzzy youngsters were simultaneously distracted and fascinated by every blade of grass and bug in their immediate vicinity. They would step out of line to investigate some interesting item, realize that the line was moving on without them, waddle quickly to catch up, and be distracted into leaving the line again a moment later, repeating the whole process. The young all carried on this routine at the same time, making for a chaotic mass of movement. The mother, in contrast, was wary and took each step with care. Her neck strained upward, trying to take in as much of her surroundings as she could, and her head constantly jerked left and right, attempting to look in all directions at once. Even though she was at least thirty yards away from the house, she froze when I rose out of my seat. The faint squeak of the chair had somehow reached her ears. The poults continued their wanderings, oblivious to any danger, but she kept staring, waiting a few more seconds before guiding the whole group into the brush.

At the time, I marveled at the attention of that mother. Her children explored the world, feeling safe and happy under her protection, and she must have been exhausted, having to spend every waking minute on the lookout for all the dangers imaginable to her mind. I was telling someone about that sighting today, and I realized that Linda and I will probably feel that way much of the time, fearful for everything that might happen to our child, while they barrel forward into the world, confident that we’ll take care of them no matter what.

62 days until baby.


  1. The fears you have as a parent are unimaginable, Billy. I literally lose sleep some nights, just imagining the absolute worst things someone could do to my children. Then I'm horrified at myself for coming up with them, but the fear doesn't subside.

    And all along, I tell myself, "Well, when they're a LITTLE older, I won't have to be afraid anymore." But it doesn't end. And I look at my mom, who still sounds the alarm if she hasn't spoken to me in 24 hours.

    But then you think: How could my life have had meaning before this? And you know you'd never want it any other way. Children are our bittersweet paradox.

  2. A short note to tell you I'm enjoying your take on parenthood looming on the horizon. You and Linda seem to have a confident grasp on the treasure about to turn your world upside down! Also, this little one will give you more joy than you've ever known. Just the fact that this little person, will, for many years,be completely reliant on two people! This is more than enough to put a wide smile on your face, even after a sleepless night!