Moms Are Moms No Matter the Species

Aug 2, 2013

Over decades, my students have written many essays detailing results of getting between young animals and their mommas. Mothers aren’t only tender. They’re tough when necessary, and one look at a momma cow with her calf clearly states you don’t want to mess with her baby. Years ago, a family of fledgling wrens reminded me how moms fuss over their babies and that I should stay out of their business.

After a long awaited rainstorm, I explored my yard to see how plants were growing under the unusual wet conditions. Until the downpour, our section of the creek had dried to cracked, scabby earth and our buffalo grass had shriveled and crisped into crunchy curls. I was most interested in how a creek-side grapevine was handling the welcome moisture.

   While I counted purpling clusters and imagined jars of wild grape jelly, a rising crescendo disturbed my thoughts. Because we have a wren family living off the back porch, I recognized the “shirring” sounds. However, I’d never heard so many little birds in an uproar at one time.

   Evidently, I’d interrupted a mother and her children as she taught them to find their own dinners. Not six feet behind me was a rotten log loaded with insects to feed her and her babies. I interfered not only with her lesson, but also with quality dining.

   Not meaning to threaten them, I quietly turned to watch this wary protectress with her offspring. Apparently, my statue-like presence still created a menace because she reprimanded even more intently. Like children I’ve seen at the grocery store’s candy counter turning their backs to ignore scolding parents, these juvenile wrens did exactly that. They looked at mom and at me. Then they returned to devouring crunchy bugs.

   This drove Mrs. Wren nuts. She dramatically flitted back and forth. If wrens can fling heads and wings, she did. With each dart, her tone intensified an octave. I may not have spoken her language, but I clearly understood her meaning. Finally, all but one of the babies reluctantly left the dinner table to fly to shelter. I couldn’t see them, but I could hear mom and fledglings’ raucous comments. Nobody in that tree was happy.

   That left one little wren at the log. Like most families that have one child who marches to its own drummer, this fellow wasn’t a bit concerned at momma’s and siblings’ fussing. Despite louder warnings, the youngster didn’t give its guardian a second look.

   I knew how Momma Wren felt since we’ve raised kids. As our daughters moved into adulthood, I found myself apologizing to my mother as well as thanking her for her patience and care. It’s no easy task letting children go, especially those with independent spirits.

            Finally, my heart couldn’t take that mother’s frantic cries any longer. Since her baby refused to mind her, I left, removing the imagined peril. As I walked away, I recalled my own mom’s wish for me and thought, I hope that baby wren has a young one just like it.