Friday, May 6, 2011

Go ahead, call me a weed

The world is full of mothers. And we as the type who tote around diaper bags and sit through piano recitals are really no different than the weeds in our front yard. Every Mother’s Day I am reminded of that crazy bond that females all around the animal and plant world share. Call it instinct, call it insanity, but that whole business of having children is just how the world works.

Ask any naturalist or biologist, and they will tell you that if something in this world is living, it has a very specific task to do before it dies: Make more of itself. Consider the mayfly, which hits adult status for roughly three hours before it dies. Within those three hours, they all become parents.

On a slightly larger scale, take the average rabbit, hippity hopping through your backyard, eating your flowers and vegetable sprouts before scurrying back home to practice the art of multiplication. If a rabbit’s gestation period is 31 days and she has as many litters as possible in one year, she could become a mother up to 96 times annually. (This thought makes my head spin.)

The plant world also has a deep need to make more of itself. The average apple has around five or six seeds in it, the average pumpkin anywhere from 100 to 700 seeds. One single dandelion will produce around 2,000 of those little whispy things to blow away in the breeze, planting themselves wherever they may. Preferably in your neighbors yard, but with a stiff breeze or a wishing child, they could end up just about anywhere.

A mature oak tree will make somewhere around 100,000 acorns in a season, each one dropping to the ground when the time comes. And a full grown maple tree with its telltale helicopters or whirlybirds number in the hundreds of thousands when it comes to its seeds.

Add up all of those numbers, and you’ve got a whole lot of babies.

Probably more babies than the world could handle. I imagine a landscape full of apple, oak, and maple trees, all covered in mayflies while billions of rabbits munch on zillions of dandelions and pumpkins below.

Fortunately this is not the case, but I’m sure the squirrels and pancake lovers would be happy.

For all the absurdity, there’s a point that brings us homework-helping broccoli-feeding moms a little closer to these wild things.

We want more of ourselves, and we want those things to do well.

Dandelions might not be able to place each puff of seed in a safe place, so they send out thousands. Oak trees certainly have no defense against the squirrels and the mayflies are no match for a hungry fish or my windshield. They make lots.

We, thankfully, don’t have to.

Instead our nature is to protect each and every one of our offspring, to guide them and teach them and keep them healthy and warm no matter how often they drive us up the wall and back down again. We are wired to love more and want for so that they want for nothing and know the feeling of love.

And so on this Mother’s Day, I salute all the mothers of the world, both human and otherwise. To the ones who send their seeds out to the mercy of the wind or their future to the fate of the squirrels, to the ones who wrap their children in bubble wrap and to those who tend towards wrapping in Band-Aids, to those who live only to be a mother and those who are mothers month after hopping month, to those who have watched their children grow and lost their children before their time, I celebrate each and every one of you.

And your mother, ‘cause she’s pretty special, too.

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