Longtime Readers might remember Myrtle & Dobby’s “permissive parenting” style of little Winky last summer, as documented in the 2016 Reading, Kids These Days: Dobby, Myrtle, & The Permissive Parenting Style of the Next Generation. Well, Myrtle is back, wed to Mustache BYLL, and she has her little wings full with their three doodles Cinnamon Bun, Flapjack, and Little Cyclops. So how has her parenting style evolved?
It appears Myrtle did some soul searching over the Winter and has decided to try a completely fresh parenting style this year. Rather than the anything-goes, everybody-gets-a-gold-star, you’re-a-winner-no-matter-what approach she took with Winky, Myrtle is now a classic Helicopter Mom. She appears to be evolving. She is keeping the doodles tight, hidden high in thick dune grasses, hovering over them, and constantly freaking out.
All individuals have unique personalities, and family groups have their own individual family personalities too. Having five pairs of Piping Plover at Barnegat Light this year has provided a great opportunity to compare and contrast the relative effectiveness of their various parenting strategies. BYLL & Myrtle I would categorize as “completely crazy,” “way too uptight,” or perhaps “totally out of control.”
As Piping Plover are forced to share the beach with our vacations more and more each season, it is going to take a special kind of PIPL personality and strategy to survive the chaos. I’m not sure Myrtle & BYLL have the right strategy.
BYLL & Myrtle’s brood is basically a nightmare of chaotic stress. It is painful to watch. I don’t even like to check up on them to make sure all the babies are still alive. Walk onto the beach, blocks away from them, in the morning, and they will be there in seconds, peeping like crazy & looking stressed. Trying to count all three babies as they run through and hide in the thick dune grass is a painful & frustrating exercise in futility. As the summer gets busier and busier each week, you can see the stress taking its toll on the pair.
If you wanted to make a biased, loaded documentary demonstrating just how much humans disturb Piping Plovers, this would be your pair. They are truly “unreasonable.”
Only time will tell if the constant stress of our vacations will lead BYLL & Myrtle to relax, or to completely explode. More importantly, time will tell if their endless stress and nervousness, and their keeping of the babies hidden deep in the dune, can produce healthy, vibrant PIPL from their little doodles. Maybe they know something we don’t.
It makes me wonder just how much parenting style will factor into the future evolution of the Piping Plover, and all of us. Will the mad, laid back style of the Taceters be perpetuated into the future through genetic material, and the uptight nervousness of a bird like Myrtle be weeded out through reproductive failure? Are we evolving in a direction where we might all one day be able to truly share the beach?
Myrtle has tried the hyper-permissive anything goes strategy last season, and now the hovering helicopter parent strategy this season. Both seem extreme. Hopefully she discovers the sweet spot before it is too late.
Time Will Tell.