A mother’s instinct


Joy Park

My living room is almost like any other living room. We have a mundane white couch, a dark leather armchair and a coffee table the color of, well, coffee. We have a handmade mahogany bench that bolsters leafy, green plants, and we also have an ivory storage bookcase. We have a fraudulent fireplace, hence the invisible hearth.
However, what sets our living room apart is a frame that hangs above the fireplace mantel– the component that ties our living room together, and the reason for the italicized ‘almost’ in the first sentence.
Above our fireplace is an oriental watercolor painting created by my grandfather, a once schoolteacher and an avid artist and gardener. Featuring a mother bird feeding her newly born offspring, the painting portrays the beauty of motherhood in all living creatures: furry and slimy, gentle and aggressive, human and nonhuman. Through this painting, I am constantly reminded of my own mother’s love.
I’m no ornithologist, so let’s assume that these birds of ours are eagles.
My grandpa illustrates two innocent eaglets: one in the reach for a scrumptious worm dangling from the mother’s beak and the other straining for a morsel– eyes afflicting with hunger and jealousy. The painting takes place atop a high cliff.
When the eaglets grow sturdy, they are left to weaken and starve– a technique of parental discipline. With a hunk of meat in one claw, the mother tempts the young from a distance, gently coaxing the eaglet to step outside of its nest; away from home and away from safety.
The pivotal moment of an eaglet’s life occurs when push comes to shove, quite literally.
The mother eagle’s heart quivers as she feels their resistance to her persistent nudging. Deep within, she knows that her push would be the greatest, most supreme act of love. So with nothing but air to support the wings of each eaglet, the mother eagle pushes them, one by one. They flap their wings vigorously. And they soar.
Much like the mother eagle, our moms nurture us and guide us into adulthood. They speak of wisdom and discern us from good and evil. They warn us of the harsh cruelties outside, but for now, they ward off snakes and mountain lions– or rather, amorphous ghosts and greasy nightmares.
A mother’s love is not confined within humanistic walls. It surpasses nature. It extends beyond the animal kingdom and far beyond the blue horizon.
Although humans and animals are greatly different (except for when we’re angry at someone and we decide to classify them to a donkey’s bottom, a pig, a sloth or, in general, a nasty brute), we all have the same particular member in our clan: moms.
From Mother’s Day onward, let’s recognize moms of all different shapes, sizes and origins. These not-so-human mothers can be witnessed through their constant tenderness and sacrifice, just as human mothers can.
We can acknowledge female elephants for enduring a 22 month pregnancy to deliver a 200 pound elephant calf, the biggest baby on Earth. We can thank them for their abiding patience, because calves are born blind and depend on the mother and its trunk for navigation.
Thanks mom, for bringing us into the world and guiding us to the light.
We can acknowledge cheetah moms for their great patience. Female cheetahs have four to six cubs, all born without survival instincts. It’s up to the mother to discipline and teach how to hunt prey and avoid predators. The mom has to simultaneously stay alert of her surroundings and of her cubs’ whereabouts when training in the wilderness. She makes sacrifices and fights for the safety of her cubs’ lives. The cheetah mom endures this for two years until cubs fully develop survival instincts.
Thanks mom, for being faithfully patient and for keeping us safe from harm.
We can acknowledge orangutan moms for their vast wisdom and diligence. Female orangutans spend most of their lifetime in the highest of trees, creating tens of thousands of complacent nests for the children to sleep on each night. She never puts down her babies, generally nursing the cubs until they are six or seven—  the longest dependence of any animal on Earth.
Thanks mom, for all of your delicious, healthy meals, for making our comfort your number one priority and for doing cool, everyday superhero things. Thanks for warming the tap water on cold winter mornings. Thanks for all the prayers and persistent nudgings. And most importantly, thanks for being my mom. I will honor you for all that your hands have done.
We love you mothers, everywhere.
By Joy Park