We’re still settling in with our new technology and settling down after our latest wool run. So this week’s post comes from my files. I wrote it several weeks ago, and thought I’d run it this week while we catch up.
I’m sitting at my desk when I hear the wails of despair from the living room. I break away to identify the source of the drama. Saoirse and Ula are clutching each other on the couch, their eyes are red and swollen as they offer each other consolation.
They’re empty nesting. Literally.
The geese that roam freely on the farm have a habit of accidentally killing off each new gosling that hatches every spring. The little critters come out all fuzzy and sweet, and as soon as they can waddle after their parents, off they go down to the creek, where the snow melt and spring rains have made the water turbid, the current strong. The geese make their way across. We find the goslings dead on the rocks down stream.
So Saoirse and Ula intervened on behalf of the one gosling that hatched this year. They stole it away, named it Peep, and with Grammie’s help, set up a nursery in the bathroom. Then they took to raising it up, spending as many hours at the farm as we’d allow, holding Peep inside their coats and sweaters, letting him cuddle against their necks as they read books on the couch, filing the bathroom sink with water, teaching the little gosling to swim in an environment far safer than the turgid waters of House Creek.
As Bob and I worked at scraping the spilled spackle off the floors down in the cafe, we got used to hearing the slap slap slap of the little goose feet behind us as he learned to walk on indoor surfaces. We carried a roll of toilet paper to clean up the endless stream of droppings left behind. The dogs grew accustomed to his presence, sharing space with him under the lunch table as we all sat down to eat, as though he were one of the pack. I came to like Peep’s company when I sat out on the stoop for my morning coffee, and he’d nestle beside me and make conversation: “meep meep meep,” Peep would say. And I’d repeat it back. And then Peep would repeat it back. We’d go on for a good half hour, both of us highly stimulated by the dialogue. If Peep chose to be a human, he could make for good company.
But Peep has grown, and has begun to feather. And he doesn’t yet know what kind of animal he is going to be. But in the past few weeks, when the goose feces became too much to bear in our domestic environs, and the weather warmed enough, Saoirse and Ula relinquished their hold over their child, and allowed him to start exploring possible avian affinities. Peep settled in with the chickens. Kate brought him a shallow bucket to use as a swimming pool, and the little bird seemed content to play the part of a long-necked swimming chicken…Until Saoirse and Ula would come out to visit. And then all avian interests would be abandoned, and the gosling would spread out its stubby little wings and run to greet them.
But last week, Peep stopped running to greet them. Suddenly, the little winged creature has eliminated “human,” along with “dog” from his list of possible animal identities. Chicken remains a strong possibility.
And the cries that rise up from the couch are sobs of mourning and surrender. Saoirse and Ula are not plotting to reclaim Peep from his flock, to fight the choice that the little goose has made. They know they have to let him go and find his path. To keep him from the other birds is selfish. To let him find his way is an act of love.
I’m not as sympathetic as I could be. My desk is piled with papers. I have a growing list of unanswered emails, one of them from a reader/parent who, noticing a reference to a pop song in one of my recent blog posts, is asking:
How on earth did you introduce pop music to your kids?….I really don’t want to be the crazy sheltering mother, but I am so not ready to have their worlds mix (yet) with pop culture’s choices for what kids should like.
Pop music? I would love to be simply concerned about Pop music. But what can I say? I’m too busy trying to get Ula ready for her “lifelong” nine-year-old dream, Circus Camp. She’s just gotten a pixie haircut and has had her bangs died blue. Her only regret is that she didn’t have them bleached first, to create a hard-core peacock blue…not just the soft lavender blue.
I’m reviewing the camp packing list when one statement catches my eye:
Campers bringing giraffe unicycles, stilts, juggling knives, torches, or other flaming objects, as well as fuel, must check their props with the coaching staff at registration.
And this mother wants me to comment about how to make good decisions about exposing children to modern music? I’m not sure I’m qualified.
I never gave intentional thought about exposing my children to pop music. They learn about some popular artists from their friends. Sometimes Bob and I find something and share it with them. They know songs with all kinds of swear words, describing all kinds of lascivious behavior. They are currently enthralled with Natalia Kills’ Problem and Christina Aquilera, Mya, Pink and Lil’ Kim’s 2001 version of Lady Marmalade. Saoirse is keen on the harmonies. Ula is driven by the pounding rhythm. Then again, they’re also committing every song the Andrews Sisters ever recorded to memory.
But as these girls bemoan that their little gosling is growing up, my head is spinning on other matters: punk haircuts, juggling knives, torches, songs about sex workers.
How does a parent sift through any of these things for a child?
The only answer I have is that it’s really about the child….Saoirse and Ula are not going out to reclaim Peep from the chickens, because Peep is on his way to finding his own path. Bob and I don’t banish pop music from our home, or blue hair dye, for that matter, on grounds that we simply disapprove of it. We just ask that our children know themselves enough to explore these things because they speak to their heart in some way. Peep’s hanging with the chickens because something in that setting works for him (or her..gender, in addition to species, is yet undetermined)… Ula’s running off to the circus for a while because it has been her own private dream. Lady Marmalade thumps from our speakers because they like the sound….Not because they are buying into a manufactured commercial culture.
A few nights later, Bob found Ula sitting on her bed, pen in hand, thinking hard. “I’m trying to re-write the words to Lady Marmalade so that it’s about orange marmalade, instead of about sex,” she explained to him. “I think that would make the song more interesting.”
The next day, we’re listening to the Andrews sisters in the car when Saoirse suddenly snaps it off. “Did you ever listen to some of those lyrics?” She gasps. “They’re mostly about seriously clingy women. I’d really hate to be that desperate. I just need a break from them for a minute”
They venture out, then they find their way back, it seems.
Like Peep, they’re trying new things. They’re exploring different identities. And just as Saoirse and Ula have to let their gosling find his path, I have to let my daughters find theirs. So for now, I have to sign off and go help one child pack for the circus. Somewhere around here, maybe next to the egg boxes, or was it out in the garage behind the pitchforks and shovels?…There’s got to be a set of juggling knives and torches…