What I Learned from Wild Kratts and the Musk Ox

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Life can be harsh and unrelenting and sometimes the cold is just too much for one person–or ox–to face alone. My boys love watching Wild Kratts, and the other day I overheard an interesting fact about the musk ox (a goat-like animal that lives in the arctic regions). When wolves or frigid temperatures overwhelm the musk ox, they circle up together and protect one another. Not that uncommon with herds, but here’s the clincher. They rotate at intervals to give the outside ring a break, pulling them in and circulating those who were more inside to the out. That way no one ox faces the danger or cold for too long. Balance. Interdependence. Give and Take. I like this analogy.

In our world, we often see imbalance: those that give, give, give and those who take, take, and take some more. We come to expect the givers to give and get perturbed when they say “no” or “not now” because we are so used to an easy advantage with that person. And the takers continue to expect and keep profiting at the expense of others.

Another thing I admire about the female musk ox involves her “tough love” approach to raising her young. When it’s time for the calf to quit nursing and forage for its own food, the mother will head butt or horn the calf away. The calf will continue to attempt at nursing until it gets the picture. To us, this method of denial may seem cruel, but it’s actually the most loving thing the mother musk ox can do. She knows that if a wolf gets her or the cold overtakes her, her young will be able to survive on his own.

Even at the ages my kids are, I’m trying to teach them the value of self-reliance and responsibility. Don’t feel sorry for yourself and expect someone else to carry the load. Get out there; figure it out. Work hard. Persevere. Take ownership of your mistakes and contribute to the family (and later to your community). Contributions will be minimal if expectations are absent. Kids don’t like chores, boundaries, or responsibility, but if I want them to become successful adults, this “discomfort” now is vitally important. They need to know how to carry their own pack. If I’m always carrying everything for them and expecting nothing from them, they won’t learn the value of discipline and diligence, and consequently, their character will be deficient.

In other words, you won’t care how many trips you have to make to the watering hole, if you aren’t the one carrying the bucket.

So, we can learn from the musk ox and how they live in community with healthy interdependence and no coddling. Thanks, Wild Kratts.

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