posted on January 29, 2012 12:34pm by Meryl
Last night, my family went to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center to watch an IMax documentary called Born to be Wild. The movie was about two women, living in different parts of the world, who each devotes her life to rescuing orphaned animals: one woman, elephants, and the other, orangutans. The movie was wonderful and I highly recommend it. But what inspired this blog post was the fact that both women defined success in the same way – raising the orphaned animal in a manner that facilitated its successful return to the wild.
The animals were adorable and clearly loved by the women and the other workers. The movie showed orangutans enjoying piggy-back rides (one per animal handler) as they walked into the woods and baby elephants playing a rousing game of soccer with their human companions. It must have been so tempting to keep these endearing creatures forever, but these heroic women were determined to do what was best for the orphans. And that was to prepare them to return to the wild where they belonged and where they could raise children themselves.
To that end, at the orangutan sanctuary they built a jungle gym area so that the baby orangutans could play and practice their climbing and swinging skills. When the elephants were a few years old, they were transitioned to a half-way house type area where they could spend their days with the adult females in the herd, but still have the security and milk supply they needed in a protected environment at night.
Our children perhaps have gotten too cloistered, too protected from the world around them. What good will be all of those extra tutoring sessions and violin practice and soccer clinics, if when our children get into the college of their choice, they are still phoning home every night and seeking advice from mom and dad.
I hope that the next time my inclination is to solve a problem for one of my children or help them too much, I think of the elephants and orangutans. We have to let our children play, we have to let them stretch themselves and fly, and when they fall, we need to help brush them off and tell them to try again. Because our children were born to become adults, not born to stay children, and we need to allow them to become self-confident and independent.