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Two elementary age boys, sitting on a  shaded front porch.  The are looking out towards a pair of bicycles on the sidewalk.  They are wearing matching t-shirts

I like to refer to them as “my boys”.  The first was due the day “Snowmagadeon of 2011” rolled into town. All the grandparents were panicked that we would be snowed in and he would be born in the living room.  I didn’t know a thing about bringing up boys on a farm but I was sure that he wasn’t coming that day. However, thoughts of being housebound with all of them was to start giving me labor pains so off we went.  We ended up bunkering down at the local Baymont with a hotel full of truckers. Things got interesting whey they rolled a keg into the middle of the continential breakfast nook. We sat around the tables, hands on our big bellies, eating chili and talking about our times “over the road.”  

A boy standing in a barnyard.  The ground is wet with mud.  He is wearing a sweatshirt and petting a Hereford calf.  The calf has a white face and is leaning into the boy.
Our blizzard baby, slopping around in the barnyard with one of his heifers

If you have read my earlier posts (read it here), you will know that our journey to becoming a family had a rocky start.  Imagine our surprise, nine months later, when we discovered we were expecting our second child. I can still remember sitting in the ultrasound room watching Andrew’s face to see the gender.  No, he’s not an obstetrician or an ultrasound technician. He’s a cattle breeder. 

Fun Fact

Did you know, in the very early stages, cattle embryos look very similar to Homo Sapians (For real! check it out).  Andrew has seen so many cattle ultrasounds that he was able to see the gender of our babies before the technician could say “Are you finding out today?”  While he would always mouth the words “boy” or “girl” to me, I could always tell by his eyes what was floating around on that screen. The fact that he was fist-pumping also gave it away.  Boy no. 2 joined us on a warm sunny day, early the following September. Since then, those boys have been as thick as thieves and as wild as the oats that spring up in the barnyard; everywhere they’re not supposed to be. 

Welcome to Motherhood

Before I had children, I knew everything.  Professionally, I passed all my certifications, completed licensures to work in mental health private practice, and read voraciously about all the newest research in child development.  My day-to-day work involved children and adolescents with severe emotional and behavioral difficulties. I’d been threatened, hit, kicked, and wished, with enthusiasm, to the bottom floor of hell.  There were some days I thought my ears would bleed because of the amount of cuss words that were hurled my way. If you’d have told me a two year-old who laughed in my face when I begged him to lay down to take a nap would have made me sob like a baby, I would have called you crazy.  But, God has a sense of humor and I needed to be knocked down a few levels.  

A boy is sitting on a trailer covered in hay bales.  He is looking at the camera, smiling.  There is farm in the backdrop.
There’s a reason the good Lord made him cute

This was not my first day bringing up boys on a farm. I should have known when they came down the stairs in matching t-shirts, it was going to be a doozy.  The warning signs were all there when they asked if they could go surprise Daddy by sweeping out the barn. I even patted myself on the back for raising such industrious young men.  If it had a been a cartoon, the next scene would be them walking away from the house, giving each other a high-five and thought bubbles springing up over their heads containing the words “Sucker!”

When bringing up boys on a farm…

no new is NOT good news.

Fifteen minutes had elapsed and I had not seen either of them.  This is usually the amount of time that must pass before:

  • someone needs a snack
  • a fight breaks out
  • property damage occurs

My subconscious is screaming by now that something is off.  The girls were down for a nap so I mosied on over to the barn to check out their progress.  I walked through the open barn door to front row seats to my own private rodeo. The boys were running in circles, chasing heifers, and there was manure EVERYWHERE.  One had tried to halter an animal but was only able to half-way loop it around her ears. The other was trying, in vain, to push her backend out the other end of the barn.  In my flip flops, I become clown #3. We re-haltered the heifer, pushed her obstinate behind out the door, and cleared out the place of any other four-legged female who stopped in to check out the excitement.  Bales were busted, feed was spilled, and mama was mad.

Important details to know

It’s probably wise to give you all some backdrop to this story.  Andrew had been remodeling the barn and was in the process of hanging new gates for cattle pens.  This required the use of power tools. The barn was also home to their show heifers. It was the end of the season and by August, the ladies were used to eating delicious show chow and lounging under fans.  All of these things are magnets to elementary school boys. I should have known this would be a prime source of mischief when bringing up boys on a farm.  

A boy is standing in a barn alley way with a push broom in his hand.  He is looking at the camera.   The broom is on the ground and it appears that he is sweeping a pile of mulch.
Their rooms are a mess but they love cleaning the barn

The boys decided they wanted to hang the gate to leads to the barnyard.  They assembled the necessary powertools, drug in the steel gate, and proceeeded to remove the old junk gate that had been barn-twined to the open entry.  Once the gate was down, the girls in the yard, took it as a cue that it was time to eat. The heifers in that yard had been handled quite a bit that summer so they had no fear of the two boys playing Bob-the-Builder.  

Forensic Investigation

Evidence from the scene suggested that things quickly errupted into chaos.  They first grabbed halters to try to wrangle and drag them back outside. The heifers, not leaving before having a snack, were in no hurry to depart.  I think that’s when they started flinging feed all over the place, hoping they would follow the trail of chow back out the door.  

The irony of the situation is if I had not shown up, I’m pretty sure that it would have worked out just fine.  The moment I arrive on the scene, I start hollering, everybody is spooked, and cow pies, and their counterparts in the English vernacular, start dropping left and right.  I didn’t even realize what I had done until one of them goes “We are stupid for doing that”.  

Mom Fail

I said “Buddy, you are not stupid.  I just want you to look down at the other end of the barn and tell me what you see.”  He looked down the alley and saw that they had left the other door, the one open to the road, wide open.  He looked back at me and I could tell that his little brain had processsed that one of his show animals, one that he loves dearly, could have ended up a big pile of hamburger in the road.  I said “I’m upset because you told me one thing and did another. I know you were trying to help your Daddy.” We then proceeded to clean up the barn. Together.

A black and white drawing of a woman standing by a fire.  There is a pot over the fire and the man is washing dishes.
Washing dishes has been a form of child discipline for hundreds of years

Don’t get me wrong, they had to do hard time washing dishes and household chores for telling whoppers.  It was a good lesson for me too. The irony of parenting nowadays is we are so eager to rush in and “save” our kids. We take away the opportunity for them to come up with their own solutions and end up making the whole thing worse.  Looking back, I could tell by the looks on their faces that they were experiencing a whole boat-load of natural consequences.

Bringing up boys on a farm has been one of God’s greatest gifts to me. It’s also the reason that people guess that I’m ten years older than my actual age. I’ll just count a blessing for each one of those gray hairs they give me this year.