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Consider the Ant…I mean, Chipmunk

October 27, 2009

You’ve heard the story of the ant and the grasshopper presented as a lesson in work ethic.  But for parenting skills, I’ll follow the chipmunk any day!  Listen to this description of chipmunk parenting and the results of it taken from Nature’s Children:  Chipmunks.  (It’s a long quote, but worth reading.)

Stuffed cheeks

The chipmunk can stuff three acorns into each cheek pouch - And each acorn is at least as big as its head!

At six weeks of age the mother is now able to leave her babies alone for several hours at a time while she searches for food.  But she returns to the nest several times during the day for them to nurse.  Soon the chipmunks are able to leave the nest and explore.  They seldom stray far, however.

About half an hour before sunset, the mother and her young return to the nest area.  This is the time to play.  The mother chipmunk joins her youngsters in play fights, games of


Chipmunks at Play

chase and follow the leader.  These games are not only fun, they are good training.  The young chipmunks become more skilled at climbing  and running, and they learn how to escape when being chased.

chipmunks sleeping

I would love to sleep like this!

Bedtime is at sunset. (Don’t you wish?…) The mother and her babies go into the nest and sleep, cuddled together, until sunrise.

By the time they are ten weeks old, the chipmunks have tried many different foods and they no longer need milk from their mother.  They are nearly as big as mom and are ready to leave the nest.

It is late summer by now.  Like their parents the young chipmunks must begin to gather food for the winter.  They must also build their own winter dens.  The next weeks will be very busy for them.

Because they have so much to do before winter, these young chipmunks will be the last to settle down for their long winter sleep.  When they wake up next spring, they will be ready to begin their own families.

I think I prefer to look to the chipmunk rather than the ant.  She has an awesome work ethic and prepares for the future.  But she also carefully prepares her children for life.  She maintains close, loving, physical contact with them.  She sets aside playtime each day and doesn’t feel guilty about not being at their beck and call the rest of the time – she has a job to do that will be to their benefit.

She teaches them to handle the dangerous outside world in the safety of their own home through play and practice.  She makes sure that she and her children get a good night’s sleep each night.  She exposes them to different foods so they will know the good choices available to them to keep them healthy and growing and strong.

chipmunk family

A New Generation

After all this,  she lets them build their own homes and prepare for their ownfuture.  And then…hardest of all…at least it will be for me…she lets them go. And she lets them go knowing, I think, that she has done her best, and doneit well, and it is enough.  Now bring on the grand-babies!

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