Friday, March 17, 2006 | The following may be the most polarizing sentence I’ll ever write: I let my daughter chase ducks.

It’s true. Even worse: I encourage it. I say, “Guess what? We’re going to the lake to feed the ducks and then we’re gonna chase ’em!” It never fails to get a positive response.

Except, of course, from people who don’t like ducks to be chased.

There are two schools of thought. Some, like myself, think duck chasing is a sacred part of childhood and gets them close to understanding their own power in the world. Others believe duck chasing is animal cruelty at its worst.

I fall on the former side of the equation. I was a duck chaser. My daddy was a duck chaser and, as far as I can tell, there is a long proud history of duck chasing in the family tree. It’s good exercise, mostly harmless to the child and the duck.

Now, I don’t mean haphazard duck chasing: where you chase them willy-nilly around the lake. There is a code of ethics to duck chasing. You must feed the ducks before you chase them. Also, scaring the ducks is okay but touching them is not.

It’s great fun for Alex and I. She loves being out in the sun and in nature and I love seeing her run around gleefully after each duck.

I don’t believe it’s cruel to the ducks, at least the ones at Lake Murray. Those birds are FAT and probably benefit from the exercise.

Of course, my daughter’s duck chasing is a controversial activity. Many parents don’t let their kids chase ducks. Some because they think it’s mean, while others have a real klutz for a kid and don’t want to risk broken bones.

I try to respect their points of view. That’s why I won’t let Alex chase ducks if other kids are around. There’s nothing harder than explaining to a child why another kid gets to do something they can’t.

Still, we get looks. Lots of them. Some of them are supportive. “Ah, isn’t that cute.” But other people give us the evil eye, including my wife.

My wife didn’t ask me how I felt about duck chasing before we had kids. I guess she just assumed that a sensitive, kind-hearted man like myself would consider it cruel. Boy, was she wrong.

Now, the duck chasing has become such an important bonding ritual between my daughter and me that she has had to reach a level of acceptance along the lines of, “Well, that’s just something you do with Daddy.”

It isn’t a one-way chase thing. There are times when Alex has tried to chase geese and discovered that they can be quite mean. Once, I even had to grab her and lift her out of harm’s way when one of the geese decided he wanted a loaf of bread and not just the crumbs she was trying to throw.

It was a good lesson. Alex learned that some geese are mean and there’s always the risk of foul play when you’re chasing a duck or a goose.

Another person who doesn’t agree that duck chasing is a perfectly suitable activity for a soon-to-be three-year-old is my mother-in-law. She has made it clear that she doesn’t want her only granddaughter learning how to duck chase.

Still, I think her opinion might be changing ever so slightly. She has videotape of a beach party that features lots of footage of Alex chasing down seagulls and she has to admit it’s one of the cutest things she’s ever seen.

And it is. But I admit there are some limits.

My wife is starting to feel that chasing ducks may be, as I insist, a normal part of a little girl’s life. But she doesn’t believe a 41-year-old man should be encouraging it. Therefore, she has requested that when I’m in public I shouldn’t actively encourage it. In other words, I can say in the car, “Want to chase some ducks?” but when we’re in public, she prefers I not say, “C’mon Alex! You get those ducks! Y’hear?”

Oh, the sacrifices you make for your family.

David Moye is a seventh generation duck chaser who currently lives in La Mesa. He can be reached at

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