Kids These Days: Dobby, Myrtle, and the Permissive Parenting Style of the Next Generation

dobby-cuddle-winky
Waking up with Winky. An only child, Winky is indulged with plenty of extra snuggle time, and can apparently sleep as late as he wants to. Or not.
winky-wakes-up
“Whatever you do today Winky, have fun, and express yourself. There is no wrong. Have an extra werm today because you’ve been a good boy. You’ve earned it! Everybody gets a Gold Star!”
find-winky
Find Winky Gone Rogue.

There is an upside to Dobby & Myrtle losing three of their four chicks. Now they only have one; the One and Only Winky. Having only one makes the logistics of keeping Winky alive a little easier, just as bringing only one item to the beach makes coming home to make dinner much easier for us. (I always chose a towel over a chair or umbrella because it can double as either in a pinch.)

But the beach is hostile environment for an itty bitty. On a single, basically quiet afternoon, we can see how Dobby, Myrtle, and Winky are totally surrounded by chaos.

piping-plover-garbage-crows
I wonder if this was the view Louis and Kay Gura wanted us to Enjoy. Crows throw Dobby & Myrtle into an appropriate and understandable panic, and nothing attracts crows like trash.
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Tracks Across Tracks. Those are Dobby’s tracks in the foreground. Dobby, Myrtle, and Winky have to cross a booby-trapped freeway for every meal.
dog
Face Blurred To Protect The Guilty. To a wild animal, even our most adorable and well behaved dogs are terrifying Frankensteins: genetic hybrids of once wild animals; the results mad science experiment in genetic manipulation we’ve been running for thousands of years. They do not compute. This guy was actually pretty cool and did not bring his dogs illegally on the actual beach. But he had no idea that Dobby, Myrtle, and Winky were trying to brood in their protected area right next to him and were in a complete and total panic. If you can see the signs and fencing of a beach nesting local’s protected area, then you can be sure they see your dog and are totally freaking.
ghost-crab
Ghost Crabs. Believe it or not, Ghost Crabs love to grab baby Plovers and drag them into their underground lairs.
piping-plover-and-black-back
Predators Everywhere. Even something a simple and common as a Black Gull is an accident waiting to happen. A bored or hungry gull will happily grab an itty bitty, fly it down to the water, soak it’s fuzzy little being, then swallow it whole. It is always a little scary to point out such a simple threat, given all of the effort, the time, and the money that goes into protecting PIPL from us people. I’ve met many an entitled dog walker in an endangered species zone who will defend their flouting of local, state, and federal law (not to mention their compassion for animals) by stating first “But I live here!” and second “Meh, the predators will eat them anyway.” The logic there is obviously bad, but more importantly, the problem is not so much our dogs eating PIPL… it is our dogs terrifying the PIPL, totally distracting them from parenting, and giving the Crows & Gulls an opportunity to swoop in and have a small, quick, and delicate snack.
dobby-oystercatcher
Even American Oystercatcher, a fellow, severely threatened Beach Nesting Bird can be a problem.

So how is an itty bitty supposed to survive the chaos? The same way our children do: good parenting.

Which is why I’m a little concerned that Dobby & Myrtle seems to be adopting the Permissive Parenting style so popular with the younger generation. Thanks to 2015’s banding project, we know that Dobby is a local from Holgate born just last year. He’s a young father for sure. Myrtle was unbanded, so we don’t know her age but we can guess that she chose such a young mate as Dobby because she is either young herself, or an older female who wants to feel young by robbing the nest bowl.

myrtle-false-brooding
“Be creative Winky! This is your world and whatever you do, Mommy will be proud! Don’t you worry about these dogs… these are for Mommies & Daddies. They are only mad because they are jealous of what a special little boy you are!”

PIPL Parents control their young by calling them, much like we do. And also like us, Piping Plover have a few different ways of communicating, from “Hey! Stop right there or you’re in for 20 lashes with a blood werm!” to a more gentle, “Ummm, Sweety? We’re sorry to interrupt but could you do Mommy & Daddy a favor and come here for just a little moment?” Getting the right mix is dynamic in all parenting and comes down to what works for all of the individuals involved.

winky-on-the-run
A Childhood Without Consequences. Winky Runs Amok. Thank goodness he is wearing a wire.

Unfortunately, it appears Dobby & Myrtle have found no style of call that works at all, so instead are simply letting Winky run totally amok on the beach without parental consequence. Good parenting is a delicate balance of freedom and discipline if you are to ensure your children to stay safe and acquire a wide variety of dynamic skills needed to navigate a crazy world. Rather than give Winky a little freedom to explore on his own, then call him in to learn him right, Dobby & Myrtle seem to have opted for an uber permissive style that involves Winky doing whatever he feels like doing, while Dobby & Myrtle sheepishly follow him around, panicking about the dangers, and occasionally telling him he is a “winner no matter what.”

piping-plover-creep
“Did you break something? Don’t worry, we’ll buy you another! We should be going, but you take your time! We should talk about it, but only when you’re ready sweety!”

Compare and contrast this to Tace-ters madly effective parenting style. Tufters & Tacey are widely regarded by scientists, management officials, the public, and even the media as the world’s best Plover Parents. They light the way.

all-four-babies
Samoa, Tagalog, Do Si Do, and Thin Mint are allowed some freedom to enjoy the beach by Tufters & Tacey, but only if they stick together and stay within clear boundaries.
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Full Family Shot: In the evening, the family is called together for safety and family time.
tufters-and-baby
When Do Si Do goes astray, Tufters lovingly, but firmly, leads her back into line.
winky-wonders
Winky wonders why the chicks are following Tufters instead of the other way around.

Perhaps it is their youth and inexperience (General Confused Permissiveness). Perhaps it is the extreme trauma they suffered when they lost three of their precious babies within hours of their hatch (Indifferent Permissiveness). Or maybe Dobby & Myrtle are simply an example of the evolution of parenting. Maybe they are just caught up in the infinite cycle of generational perspective, trying to right the perceived wrongs of their own parents, while making fresh mistakes in their own reactive blind spots (Compensatory Permissiveness).

Only with hindsight, when we can reflect fully on the completeness of Winky’s life & times will we be able to form a useful judgement.

My biggest fear is that studies seem to suggest the net result of overly permissive parenting can be narcissistic and entitled adults. We are on The Road To 200, and this is The Recovery. We are speeding towards a future so full of Piping Plover, our only option will be sharing the beach. And sharing depends on both of us: the people and the PIPL. Sharing takes a little discipline, a healthy respect for the needs of others,  and the ability to reign in our own immediate desires.

winky-dobby-cuddle
Whatever the case, you really are a special little snowflake Winky. You are our One and Only.

Rate this post with the number of Gold Stars you think little Winky deserves!