There once was a mama wood duck, who had a whole brood of little ducklings, chirping and flapping and following her around. She had 18 little fluff balls in all, and she was determined to keep it that way. When she crossed the river, she called encouragement the whole way and those little powder puffs followed so closely, it was hard to tell where one ended and the next began.

When they got to the other side, she waited until every single one had climbed up on the log. Then she paddled in front of them, zipping back and forth, eyes alert, keeping watch. When a big turtle splashed into the water nearby, she sounded a warning and the whole brood disappeared into the bushes quicker than you could blink.

Mama wood duck

Mama wood duck & family on the Silver River

A week later, she still had all 18 little ones by her side. Which is amazing—and testimony to her extreme vigilance. You see, out here on the river, baby ducks are considered fast food by just about every other critter that lives here. The bass eat them (yes, I mean the fish), the turtles eat baby ducks, the gators eat them, the hawks eat them…everything thinks baby ducks make a great snack. Any mama duck that ends up with more than one or two little ones is a rarity.

Those of us who work on the river are cheering this little mama on.

Because we know this motherhood gig isn’t easy. You have to watch your own baby ducks every second, from the moment they take their first breath, right up to the minute they roar out of your driveway for the last time. And even then…you worry.

You have to keep them close by, because you know danger can snatch them away. So you set curfews and meet friends and keep watch at the window.

You make sure they get fed and loved and yes, scolded and nagged when necessary. Because even though our parenting may not seem as life-or-death serious as mama duck’s, we know our actions—or our inaction—will affect them forever.

But no matter the challenge, we meet it and keep on loving. We keep giving our hearts and our hands to help our children. Because we’re Mamas. It’s what we do.

This mother’s day, I say, thank you, Mom. I hope you will be smothered with love and sticky kisses and breath-stealing hugs. I hope you’ll be blessed with handmade cards that make you cry—especially when written by a cash-poor teenager or an eager grandchild.

And I hope you’ll remember to cherish each and every moment with your children and grandchildren—because they will be grown and flying off on their own in the blink of an eye. Make memories. Take photos. Blow bubbles and give hugs.

And when you see another mama duck, give her a hug, too, and encourage her on the journey!

Happy Mother’s Day!

PS–Many, many thanks for all the great suggestions last week! I will be putting all of them to good use!