A couple days ago, I inadvertently startled a tiny Gadwall duckling that was dabbling around the flow channel between pond and wetland at the south end of the park. There were no obvious sightings of mama Gadwall but the little, downy fellow seemed pretty sure that life would be safer on the opposite bank of the pond from where I stood, so flailing both stubby wings and tiny feet, he did his very best to run on water to the far bank. Once across he was loosely joined by his siblings, a wildly independent bunch that seemed more intent on individual exploration than being comforted by the safety of a parent or by the numbers of the flock. I have no idea if this is a common trait among Gadwall offspring, but it contrasted sharply with the family of tightly linked mallards that were seen swimming bill-to-tail on the west bank of the pond or of the closely protected Canadian geese broods with mom and dad flanking each rank.
Watching them makes me consider the debate of nurture vs. nature and wondering how the seemingly different levels of parent protection shape the success of each individual. Is it good to foster independence early in life? Or is it better to offer a narrow path of protection through that vulnerable dance of youth. As a parent, I suppose I’m prone to favor that embrace of protection and yet, there was something captivating and admirable about watching those young Gadwalls take on life, seemingly by themselves.
This spring we have celebrated graduations and new beginnings for all three of our children. Whether it is nature or nurture, I hope they are equipped to take on the world. I encourage them to be bold, explore, experience; continue to grow in knowledge and understanding. Be a baby Gadwall! And in the meantime, I will be a mama goose, ready to protect just in case the need ever arises.