Saturday, August 27, 2011
I learned this while watching Animal Planet with Middle Monkey one evening. Nestled snug in my bed in the glow of the TV we watched a show about Cheetahs and survival in the Serengeti.
Middle-Monkey watched with wide-eyed fascination at the speed and sprightliness with which the Cheetah would hunt and chase her prey. He gasped in horror as the Cheetah brought down the "cantaloupe" which would be dinner for her starving cubs. And he railed with indignation as the pack of opportunistic Hyena's crept up on the Cheetah and stole her dinner.
"Where is the Daddy Cheetah?" Middle-Monkey demanded. "Why didn't he help the Mommy keep her cantaloupe from those bad dogs?"
As I shuffled my thoughts to answer this line of questioning, the narrator jumped in and answered for me.
"Cheetah Moms are single mothers." The narrator said in a velvety voice. "After giving birth to four to six Cheetah cubs, mother Cheetahs usually spend up to two years teaching their kids how to avoid predators and hunt for food. The male Cheetach plays no part in the upbringing of cubs."
With eyes as wide as dinner plates he looks up at me inquisitively. "Why would the Daddys leave?"
Middle-Monkey can hardly be blamed for his limited knowledge of different kinds of family units. His own father is the central core of our family. He is ever present, always available and completely committed to his children.
I took this opportunity to try to explain that families come in all shapes and sizes. I told him that sometimes Daddys can't be there for their kids because they have to work, or because they get sick or in trouble.
He sat solemnly and allowed this information to be processed.
"So, the Cheetah Mommy does everything? Wow. That's a lot."
This kid is wise beyond his years.
The documentary launched into facts and figures about Cheetahs speed and body structure which could not hold his attention as well as the exciting chase scene and therefore he was off to find something more exciting to do.
Left alone I contemplated on the life of a "Cheetah Mom." Going it alone with no partner, no person to turn it over to. Nobody to say, "You had a rough day defending the burrow, I'll get dinner tonight?" All of the worries, the concerns, the responsibility resting squarely on one set of lean muscular shoulders.
Cheetah Moms have to "pound the pavement" or in this case the dusty expanses grassland in search of food and water for her cubs. She will push herself to the brink of death in the chase to secure a meal and then expend what little energy remains to drag the carcass, twice her size, back to her children. The Cheetach Mom, unlike her Lioness cousin will offer her cubs the first food. Eating only once the cubs have had their fill. Once the cubs are satisfied they will snuggle up to their Mommy to nurse and drift off into sleep. Cheetah Moms on the other hand will sleep lightly, waking frequently to monitor for signs of danger to her babies.
I thought about the Cheetah Moms that I know, whether by choice, chance or circumstance. The brave single moms who go it alone. They do it all, without complaint, without remark. They just keep going because they have to.