I was holding my 10 day old son earlier thinking about how fragile he really is. He literally needs us to do everything for him. Food and diapers are the obvious things. If we left his hands free he'd scratch his eyes blind. He already rolls over, he could easily suffocate himself if we weren't paying attention.
It got me thinking; infancy is a luxury we have as humans that people don't quite realize and seldom appreciate. The top of the food chain really has it made when you consider their natural enemies. Viruses and accidents aside, humans have nothing above them on the food chain. Yes a lion (or spider for that matter) could kill you in a heartbeat, but we aren't designed to be lion kibble.
Deer are designed to be eaten. Their numbers are prolific. Their role is to feed larger animals. Their children would then by design be in terrible shape if the mother had to coddle the child for 18 years, no? These creatures drop from the womb with the ability to walk, eat and understand their parents instantly. Sadly, they don't develop much beyond that. Sex is about the only real change they will ever have in their lives from birth.
An elephant, bear or lion on the other hand has to be raised for a considerably long time by comparison. This is because a giant rabbit isn't out trying to kill them or their offspring. They have a freedom because of their power and rank to actually raise another hunter instead of creating a survivor.
Like any creature, shit can happen to jack with this concept like a hyena snagging a lion cub or something, but for the most part it just doesn't happen often enough for them to be a true threat.
The protective mother instinct is stronger the longer they keep their kids too. You don't see salmon sticking around to knock some bear skull while their eggs hatch and grow. A bird will fight an intruder to the death though, until the kids learn to fly. Then it's back to normal til the next mating season where those kids become rivals. Really strange to think about honestly.
Our children are utterly defenseless till they're nearing 10 or more (some 30 but those are the exception, not the rule...hopefully). About the time we are hitting puberty and capable of producing offspring we could technically survive on our own. Granted, society pushed it out farther for our own good, but the capacity for self preservation is there long before it's used.
We as humans just have the opportunity to be parents longer than most. We have the chance to actually train a person to enter the world instead of throwing them to the wolves. I'm not discounting the joys of parenting or childhood or even missing the big picture that we are the sentient beings on the planet. I just think it's incredible how each creature is designed to care for it's young in similar fashion based on its rank. Conversely we are weaker and more vulnerable as infants and youths because of what we grow into. There is a pecking order that goes beyond physical strength or wits, it's in our very biology.