Every day in our life's journey holds its own special treasures, if we have eyes to see...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Speaking of Chickens

As you can see from my title, I'm going to depart from horse-derived insights to muse about chickens and parenting. Chickens? Yes. Granted, even at their best, chickens cannot claim to be bright. However, this does not mean they cannot be profound. You see, I've been watching a certain little black hen who recently went to setting.

The fact that her chicks would emerge into a December-chilled world obviously  never occurred to her bird-y brain. But in her defense, she didn't know any better. Brought to life in the sterile enviornment of an incubator, she grew to feathered chickenhood beneath the impersonal warmth of a brooder light. This little black hen, stirred by something deep and solemn within herself, sat on her clutch of eggs three long weeks, barely leaving them for a quick meal or drink.

Six little peeping fluffballs of black and yellow hatched, and now follow her everywhere. She leads them to food. She leads them to water, calling them to her in a special mother hen cluck-voice, wings half spread to receive them should they become chilled, tired, or frightened. The chicks seem oblivious to the fact that they are experiencing something precious. They will never know that their mother is giving what she never received in order that her babies may thrive.

In our world, I know there are parents who, either from inability or unwillingness, do not give their children what they need in order to prosper emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically. But here's what I love: for every one of that kind of parent, there are fifty, a hundred, a thousand parents like the little black hen. They do not become embittered about what they did not receive from their own parents, therefore refusing to give it. Instead, they look down into the trusting eyes of their children and, reaching into their own beings, they give all that they wished they'd been given.

A second miracle often occurs as well: In that selflessness, they begin to understand how their own parents most likely did the same, and how they, the children of that generation, were oblivious to the gift, just as these chicks are. They cheep and scrabble and maybe even get tired of their mother's everlasting clucking and care. They have no knowledge of what it would be like to have to turn to the impersonal glow of a heat lamp for their only comfort. All they have ever known is warm, cuddling feathers and sheltering wings.

I also find it fascinating that we assume we can do what our parents did, never realizing until much later that in many instances, just like the black hen, they were breaking open new ground, giving us what they had not been given. To me this epitomizes a beautiful aspect of parenthood: we want our children to go beyond us, and we're willing to invest all we are to give them a launching pad to that beyond. May our ceiling--the best we can achieve--be their floor. May they stand on our shoulders to reach for that which is beyond our abilities. And when they look back at us, may they see us smiling as we cheer them on to ever greater heights. :-)


  1. Miracles, they are so common in our daily life. So commkon in fact, that as the years pass by we can easily lose the ability to see them. While a child will look upon these things with wide eyed amazement, an adult will pass by without even taking notice.

  2. Charming post and wonderful insight on the relationship between children, chicks, and us mama hens.