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Recently, a neighbourhood in Guelph called "the Junction" had a community conversation as part of Tamarack's 1000 Conversations Campaign. What follows is an excerpt from this conversation centered around a goose and what it taught the neighbourhod about family and community.
I have been starting adventure days with the neighbourhood kids on Mondays. On these days I take them to local farms or other fun things where they can both learn about the environment and have fun. One Monday when we returned from our farm trip there was a guy with an orange vest standing in front of our house with what he said was a baby mallard duck in his hands. The gist of it was: “So you guys have chickens I am leaving this duck with you.” And of course Rolland (my daughter) got out of the car and was thrilled and took the baby duck inside.
To continue the adventure day, I decided to take the kids down to the local river to find the duck's mother. After an unsuccessful attempt we brought the duck back where, upon further research, we discovered that it was not a duck but a baby Canadian goose. So she spent a few days in the basement next to the chicks.
Yesterday we decided to return the goose. So we walked down to the river and I thought “this is crazy. There is no way we are going to be able to find Canadian geese in the evening.” It took us literally 10 minutes and when we got down there, we turned a corner and there were two geese. They were sitting there and I said, “oh they're probably sitting on eggs. They're not going to take our baby goose.” But, all of a sudden, all these heads popped up from between their wings. We threw our goose into the mix and they just took her. A family of four became a family of five. The kids spent half an hour watching them and we couldn’t even tell which was our goose after a while.
Mike: There is a good metaphor in there somewhere.
Mary-Kate: And Mike was joking, " do you think someone could just open the door an throw a kid in here?" And I was joking later, relaying this to Jess and we looked around and realized that there were two kids in the room that weren’t ours. They just appeared. So there is a good metaphor for what happened with the goose and what is happening here.
Sally: And the learning that the kids are having about ecosystems- this situation provides an entire unit of learning about human and nature interactions.
Mike: Rolland really wanted to keep the gosling here because she wanted the gosling to imprint on her. “I am going to keep her and raise her.” So we said, “What would happen if you were in that situation?[taken from your family]” And she responded, “Oh ya, good point.”
Mary-Kate: She was so happy and so sad at the same time. It was a great learning experience for her to let go of the gosling and give it to a family of geese.
Jess: At first, I thought, “stop- you are making it sound too easy to have kids. Tt is way harder than that.” But then I realized that doing all this stuff together makes it easy. Because they are doing all this stuff together and having fun doing it. The parents come and go and you have people to talk to when the kids are hanging out. The harder part is doing it alone.
Sally: It is so stressful to have one or two parents only.
Jess: It works really well because you guys (Mike and Mary-Kate) are such good conveners.
Mike: That ratio is a good point. We do a family canoe trip in the summer and we have a lot of friends who used to do canoe trips but then they stopped once they had kids. A lot of it comes down to ratio. We bring 2-1 adults to kids, so 8 adults and 4 kids. So then, everyone gets their needs met. Some of the adults can play with the kids, while others relax. It is the same kind of thing here. It takes a village to raise a child. So the normal ratio of a family is ok to begin with but it is not resilient over the long period of time.
Mary-Kate: In the time that you have young children, you are so locked to them- it is as if you are the only nucleus that they have. Really, though, what this is about is expanding the nucleus so there are many adults who our children feel comfortable with. Our children view many people as parents. They are just people who are part of the family.
Cindy: Speaking of resilience, if there is some kind of tragedy, the best thing is if your kids have lots of adults that they trust.
Sally: Yes and that works with children as well- if something were to happen to the child, the parents also have a strong support network.