Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lessons from Mother Duck

At the moment, my children (2 and 4) are waking up very early. Breakfast is normally over by 6.30am so I have been taking them out in the country park in one of whose many corners our house (once that of domestic servants in the nearby pile) now sits.

We take a circular route which takes us round a Victorian pond, much of which can hardly be seen through the growth. Some days we take waste bread and throw it in the water hoping the ducks will eat it before the fish do. But normally, the ducks can't be arsed - or are still asleep.

Today, though we were welcomed by a Mother Duck and her brood of ten. This troop have been paraded through the village, across the roads and up and down our garden and back by their Mother in recent weeks. Needless to say, they create quite a stir: stopping cars, walkers, cyclists even, all letting them go by and admiring their quiet orderliness.

By rights, at least half of these ducks should be dead. Foxes prowl here quite openly at dusk and dawn. Cars fly through, some at double the speed limit. Cats and dogs roam around the park. But they're all still here.

Mother Duck obviously is, on some level, providing some intelligent protection. But of course, she can't think, as we do. One has to suppose her instincts are extraordinary. When to cross, when to stay. How to keep the ten in formation when a dog bounds up. Is there anything, then, we can learn from Mother Duck?

I suggest three things. The first is about staying calm in a crisis. In over two weeks of seeing the family in all sorts of eye-watering situations, including being partially covered by a passing bus, I never saw Mother Duck panic. She acted the same and just got on with rounding up the laggards.

The second is about trusting our instincts. Mother Duck gets from pond to pond, past fox-earths, busy roads and bouncy dogs by using her inner nous, not a process of deduction. As humans, our instincts are often clouded by thought and we ignore them, often for the worse.

The third lesson is about focus. Those ten ducklings are still on the pond for the sole reason that Mother Duck is there at all times, thinking of little else.

Be it your own business, your job or your own kids, there are definitely lessons to be learned from Mother Duck.

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