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Somebody else can raise them

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Sometimes Mother Nature plays strange tricks. Take the Brown-Headed Cowbird for example. This rascal was originally a bird of the Great Plains, following herds of bison and feeding on the insects the big guys stirred up. Sometimes they would perch on the back of big animals and get a free ride. But the claim to fame of the cowbird is its characteristic "brood parasitism" which consists of laying its eggs in the nests of other birds, leaving those other birds to hatch and raise the cowbird young. Over 220 species, all the way from hummingbirds to raptors, have been fooled into feeding and caring for the little cowbirds, sometimes at the expense of their own young. The whole business can be sadly comical since the cowbird offspring are typically twice the size of the poor warblers and other birds stuck feeding them.

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And cowbirds can be nasty. They return to the host nest from time to time to check the progress of the eggs. If the eggs have been hidden in the nest or thrown out, cowbirds will retaliate by trashing the nest of the host. Sometimes the host is forced to build a new nest. When they do, cowbirds return and lay more eggs in the new nest 85 percent of the time.

Is that any way to raise your young? Well, it did work alright for Moses. Moses was born in Egypt at a time when the Israelites had lived in Egypt for 430 years and were becoming so numerous that the Pharaoh feared they would become too many to control. So he ordered that all baby boys born to Israelites be killed. Moses was born to Israelites and his mother, Jochebed, wife of Amram, kept the baby hidden at home for three months then put him in a waterproof basket in the rushes along the Nile River. Along came the Pharaoh's daughter, Bithiah, skinny dipping in the river with her handmaidens and spotted the baby in the basket and adopted him as her own. Then Moses' older sister, Miriam, who had observed all this, suggested to Bithiah that she might want a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby. It turned out that Moses' real mother, Jochebed was hired as the nurse. As Moses was growing up, Jochebed taught him about his own people, the Israelites. The rest is history. Eventually Moses became a great leader and teacher of the Israelites and let them out of slavery in Egypt. His mother certainly gave him better treatment than the mother of baby Brown-Headed Cowbirds, but the lives of "foundlings" usually do not turn out to be the success story that Moses' life became.

Oliver Twist, the fictional character created by Charles Dickens, was an orphan almost from his first breath due to his mother's death in childbirth and his father's unexplained absence. The little boy spent the first eight years of his life at a "baby farm" about 75 miles north of London. His lot was no love, little food, plenty of hard work. When he dared to ask for more gruel, the master of the workhouse was outraged and pawned him off to an undertaker for more underfeeding and mistreatment. Finally, the little boy ran away and fell in with cheats and criminals. All this because of a father who was nowhere to be found. Life for Oliver Twist was much tougher than that of a baby cowbird.

Little Oliver had what we would now call a "deadbeat dad." But it is a compliment to call anybody a dad who has disappeared from the scene. I call them "sperm donors" because they aren't dads. A true dad loves, supports and is there for his children. But there are deadbeat mothers too, although not nearly as many, who put their babies in baskets on somebody's steps, like the Brown-Headed Cowbird does, but never look back to check the nests. They're taking free rides. Worse than cowbird mothers -- at least the cowbirds check back once in a while.

If you had a dad and mother who were there for you, give thanks. If you just had one or the other, give thanks. On Mother's Day, say thanks to your loving mother if you had one, your loving dad if you had one and pledge to be one or the other if you have children. If you can't do that, don't have children.

One last thought: if you have a child and you can't care for it, show your love by putting the child out for adoption. There are many ready, willing, able and desiring to love a child.

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