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  • Shanna Donhauser

Meet Duckling

If you follow Happy Nest on Instagram or Facebook, you have undoubtedly met Duckling, the tiny fuzzy duckling exploring Seattle and drinking far too many bubble teas. Well today I'd like to share his story with you. Duckling is one of nine ducklings, born from a Calico Critter family in the mid-1990's. As you can see from his almost rubbed-bare belly, he was a treasured toy. He and his siblings would adventure in my playroom, exploring, learning, and taking care of each other. Early on in my play with the ducklings and the duck family, I lost the parents. To this day, I have no idea where they went; I only know I didn't have them for long before they disappeared. All the ducklings were often so sad, searching for their parents, and taking care of each other. (This was actually a play theme of mine. Not kidding…) For many years, I played with the ducklings. And then, as all children eventually do, I grew out of playing with those kinds of toys. The ducklings were placed in a special box in my parents garage. Twenty years later, I'm visiting my parents. I work with small children and need some toys to represent families. I fondly remember my beloved Calico Critters and search for my childhood collection. If you visit my playroom, you'll see them and special box that housed and protected them for so many years. But of all my precious ducklings, only one remained. As an attachment oriented child therapist, my little duckling, now actually named Duckling, carries such symbolism and significance now. Attachment theory was developed through contributions of many researchers and clinicians. One such person was Konrad Lorenz. Lorenz was a zoologist and ornithologist who studied behavior in animals and researched the principal of imprinting, or instinctive bonding. in 1935, Lorenz divided a clutch of goose eggs between himself and the goose mother just as they were about to hatch. When the geese hatched, he imitated a quacking sound, and noticed that the young birds regarded him as their mother, following him and relying on him for survival. This process is known as imprinting. To ensure that the imprinting process had truly occurred, Lorenz put all the goslings together under an upturned box and allowed them to mix together. When the box was removed, the goslings immediately separated to their respective "mothers", half to the mother goose and half to Lorenz. As you can see, duckings have a special place in the heart of many attachment oriented therapists. When I work with children in foster care or adoption, I often think about ducklings and the ways in which humans also choose their families. Attachment is the drive to connect with someone else, and it is incredibly flexible and adaptive. We seek out the people who care for us, make us stronger, and provide us comfort. And like the goslings, sometimes that person is someone other than the one who gave us life. If you have any concerns about the attachment relationships between you and your child, attachment oriented therapies can be so helpful. Therapists work with you to closely attune to your child's needs and cues, support setting healthy and consistent boundaries, and connect with your child and their inner world. I like to imagine that the other ducklings went off on an adventure to find their parents. But Duckling stayed behind because he already found his family. To see Duckling explore the city and go on adventures, follow Happy Nest on Facebook ( or on Instagram (@happynesttherapy)

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