Parenting human beings does not necessarily translate into parenting all of God's creatures great and small.
I've had pretty good luck with dogs having learned from past mistakes. Don't feed them from the table, don't let them roll around in the mud if you want to cuddle with them indoors, get them groomed on a regular basis. Once they're house-trained, the eating, walking, and grooming thing is something our family has learned how to handle with a fair amount of success. The secret: Dad does most of the work.
My track record with fish has been less successful. The longest living fish in our house was a record three years. The shortest was about three hours.
Don't get me started on hamsters. Let's just say we've had our fair share of rodent funerals.
Houseplants? Forget about it, don't have any. We learned years ago that nothing green stays alive in our house.
So, then you might ask why in the world would I take on baby ducks? It started innocently enough. We have a small pond in our yard and our girls thought it would be fun to have ducks swimming around.
My friend Amy, who by nature is an animal whisperer, connected us with a family who had baby ducks and was interested in giving them away. What I did not know at the time was that ducks can't live outside or swim until they're old enough to get away from predators and have feathers. To be honest, Amy warned me that ducks were "messy" and grew very quickly, so they would likely grow out of any container I was using in a matter of days.
We started with the ducks in a big plastic bin on our screened-in porch. They quickly outgrew the bin filled with wood chips, and as Amy predicted, made a big mess. The next step was to put them in a large dog crate with the tray at the bottom that we could pull out and wash easily. It proved too messy for our porch as the tray needed to be washed with a hose multiple times today. So, the duck abode migrated to the covered concrete patio behind our home.
Thursday morning I came out to feed the ducks, dressed for work in a dress and high heels, and saw the cage was once again a mess even though we had cleaned it the night before. I opened the cage and took out the water bowl and the food bowl and started the process of trying to attach the hose to the spray nozzle. What I failed to account for was that the ducks would make their great escape at this very moment. Suddenly, I looked over and saw them scurrying into the brush on the edge of the hill behind my house.
"Help," I yelled to my daughters who were waiting in the driveway for carpool. "The ducks are leaving, the ducks are loose!"
I started careening down the hill against my better judgment, slipping and sliding in the mud, trying to catch the fast and furious little creatures.
Mind you, I was in a hot pink fitted summer dress. I'm sure if my neighbors happened to look out the window at that very moment they would've thought I was crazy. But all I could think about was the admonition I had received that "the ducks will be killed if you let them out into the wild too early." I was not about to have baby duck deaths on my conscience.
"Oh my gosh, mommy, the duck fell in the hole. Save the duck, save the duck!" my youngest cried, tears streaming down her cheeks. I could see a little duck head peeking out of the hole on the side of the hill. I had no idea how deep it was or if the duck was sinking deeper. Pink dress be damned, I scurried over to the muddy hole and reached my arm in and dug out the baby duck as my relieved child looked on.
Emboldened by the first rescue, I set off to catch the other duck. Together we use the grill, bikes and our bodies to trap her in an area where I could finally grab her and return her to the safety of her clean house with her sibling.
"I told you so," my friend Amy scolded me after hearing the story. "Baby ducks aren't easy."
As of this writing, we are still contemplating a better duck structure that will be easier to clean and a more user-friendly environment for all of us, the ducks included. Now that I am invested in the duck journey, I am determined to parent these ducks until they are ready to go out into the world and live on the pond in our backyard.
Luckily, unlike children who generally leave the nest after 18 years, ducks only need a few months ...
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.