I know we all have those parenting moments when we are flustered, frazzled and we throw out some extreme consequence or threat to our children.
It happened to me last week. I was standing on the deck, a screaming baby in my arms, a duck quacking from her cage and a certain 8 year-old standing in front of me whining about the fact that I had asked her to feed that quacking duck, which we've now named Maggie.
"I already did the chickens and the cats! I don't have my boots on anymore! I want to eat my breakfast!"
I calmly reminded her of her responsibilities. That the job of feeding Maggie was very easy. I reminded her of her dreams to some day own some sheep and a pony and if she couldn't take care of seven chickens and a duck, then she surely wasn't ready for the care of a horse. We stood there talking over the screaming baby in my arms, while she stubbornly gave excuses as to why she couldn't walk the twenty feet across the yard to take care of Maggie.
"Emma. You have been arguing with me for so long the job would have been done by now."
And at this point, I reached the end of my rope. The whining, the arguing, the not listening, not to mention, the poor screaming baby in my arms.
"Fine." I said. "If no one is going to take care of Maggie then I guess we need to just let her go."
I turned on my heel and headed back in to the house. When Emma didn't come in for several minutes, I assumed she understood me and was outside feeding and watering Maggie.
But then she came inside in tears.
"I let Maggie out of her cage and now I can't get her to go back in!!!"
She was hysterical, desperate. I asked why she let Maggie out of her cage and she said, "Because you TOLD ME TO!"
My words came back to haunt me. And I wondered why, after all the arguing, this was the one statement she decided to obey.
Well, long story short and fast-forwarding through many tears and drama, it turns out Maggie is doing just fine. She flew away later that morning. And by evening we heard her quacking laugh in the backyard once again.
She comes and goes, checking in with us at least twice a day, and enjoying a few beak-fulls of feed with the chickens.
Yesterday evening, I heard her quacking from the little stream that runs in front of the chicken coop. I stood on the deck and called to her, the same way I did when she was little. And she immediately came flying in, landing in the front yard, looking for food.
And despite what we thought was her early release back into "the wild", I'd say she's a completely rehabilitated duck.
And in the future, I will monitor my parental threats a little more closely.