I did not grow up this way. Showing and raising animals in hopes of impressing judges. In hopes of winning that Grand Champion Ribbon. These animals are not pets, but are raised like they are. Fed well and groomed better than most domesticated creatures.
This lifestyle was inherited from my husband. His love for agriculture and the outdoors have been passed onto our children. Our kids have grown up searching for the best looking pigs, needing show sticks, stocking show boxes, and learning that certain types feed are needed if they wanted to build muscle or add fat.
Before my husband helped expand my knowledge, the extent of my expertise was due to Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web. To me, all pigs were pink, cute and made friends with spiders.
After years, I have adjusted and learned a few things. I understand why they put notches in their ears. I can name various breeds of pigs. Although I become severely confused when asked to explain the difference between a White OPB and a Cross.
Who knew there were so many types to choose from?
Definitely not this city girl.
Our morning started early. Even though the schools were delayed because of cold weather, we were up early and gathering the gear we would need for the day. Like a whirlwind, the routine from past years rolled through our home.
I should be used to the chaos that involves wrangling kids and making sure all is packed up – I do it every day for school, practices and trips. But this always finds a way to break me and patience quickly vacates the house for higher ground.
Shirts – button down, long-sleeved with a collar - because that’s required. (There are rules about this.) Check!
Jeans are pressed and neat, hanging from their wire hangers. Ones that will soon be covered in dust and poop. check! (Why did I send them to the cleaners again?)
Belts with buckles attached– check! A blinged out, shiny black one for Diva. Basic Brown leather with muted designs for Middle Child.
Clean socks – just in case we have a pig pee on one of the kid’s shoes like last year. Mud Boots and Cowboy boots are standing at attention in the back of the truck. Hair ties, brush and the hair bow for Diva are in a Ziploc Bag.
Check. Check. Check! Almost ready.
Last but not least, coats and hats. Since it feels like 15 degrees outside, we must bundle up. Middle Child apparently doesn’t know where his coat is, causing a minor disruption to the process.
After some scrambling, we get back on track. Albeit, grumpier than before.
It’s freezing outside, but we have to go. We have to. We can do this.
I will not lie. I thought about opting out and heading back inside. I imagined myself waving to them from the window. Heading back to bed to snuggle under blankets that still held the warmth of sleep.
Such a sweet image, but not my reality at that moment.
It’s a quiet ride, due to the lost coat issue and the kid’s inability to understand the words “HURRY UP”. Comprehension of simple English is apparently lost during the early morning hours.
It’s probably for the best that none of us speak. The next 30 minutes will give us time to decompress and like each other again.
I inhaled a deep breathe and exhaling it towards the cold window, causing a fog over the outside world passing by. As I watch the cloud of fuzziness fade, I find myself chanting: I can do this. I can do this. I can.....wait....did I forget something? Probably....I want to go home.
(Note to self: I need to work on positive self-motivation.)
It is then that I realize Diva forgot gloves. More grumbling fills the air, as I contemplate quitting. (Quitting what exactly? I am not sure.) Blankets and extra towels were also forgotten. Crap!
No worries though! A quick stop at the local dollar store has us back on track. We now have new blankets, extra towels, a box of Cheez-its, and M&M’s. No gloves though. Diva will have to make do.
Parental Tip 101
Blankets are a must for shows. They keep your bootie from freezing to the metal stands you will be camping out on. Seating becomes limited and blankets are used to mark territory. For whatever reason - DO NOT MOVE ANOTHER PERSON'S BLANKET! This is breaking code.
Another tip is that they can be used to clean up spilt hot chocolate, wipe runny noses and keep warm when temperatures drop. (Germ phobia is not allowed here.)
Remember, this is all for the children.
Showing animals and belonging to FFA is a rite of passage here in my husband’s hometown. I sit from the sidelines and watch. Amazed at the dedication of the volunteers, parents and kids. There is a passion here and it is infectious.
Eight Hours In
After being enveloped in the dust and sweet smells on manure for the day, my passion has faded. I was done. I have watched the parade of pigs and ribbons. I enjoyed the determination and smiles from kids hoping to win. A ribbon determines what their placing will be for the upcoming sale. The color dictating if they will at least break even from all the money spent on raising their animal(s) or if there is extra to set aside in savings.
My kids did well and they were happy. My husband was happy. I was happy because they were happy. Simple enough.
I gathered my blankets and took the gear to the truck. My mind already set on dinner and sleep. A sweet prize for the end of a long day. Mind you, I did not do much but clap, take pictures and sit. But I was exhausted.
Trudging back through dirty shavings and muddy cement floors, I get to our pens. Ready to hug my kids and shove them in the direction of home. This is when I am faced with a moment. A moment that later I wished I had handled differently.
“Mom, I want to compete in Showmanship.” Diva states. Her brown eyes bright with excitement.
I look over her head to look at Hubby. He knows what I am thinking. I don’t want to stay. I’m done. This is not my “thing” , but I have been good and not complained. I deserved to be rewarded dammit, with dinner and my warm pajamas.
Granted each one of them are more exhausted than I am, but I am feeling selfish. I can’t remember the exact words I said. I believe I groaned about the 2 additional hours that her competing for a buckle would take.
The self-centered message in my actions was relayed loud and clear. Diva’s eyes were no longer shining with excitement. She was not immune to my grumbling.
Not my finest Mommy moment.
After talking to my husband, I realized that forcing my insecurities and selfishness on my child was unfair. She has been raised in a life I was not. One of competition and strength. I wanted her to have the confidence I never felt as a child.
Placing a smile on my face, I told her it was her choice. She needed to do this is she wanted to. It was good practice and you never know, this year, could be HER year.
My positive smile was not enough to rekindle the excitement she had earlier. She decided to not compete for the buckle and I took full responsibility for this. The weight of making mistakes is a hard one to carry. When you are the one to do this to your own child, the blame burrows deep.
Motherhood is a Battlefield
Later that night, I laid awake and worried about how my reaction would affect Diva. In the late hours of darkness, I made a promise to myself. To think before I react.
At least, try to. I owed it to my family to try.
Three kids in and I have a list of things I wish I had done differently. Some situations are hard to hold back reaction, but in instances like yesterday – I needed to put aside my selfishness. My child’s excitement should bring out encouragement, not complaint.
Motherhood is an important job and at times, I feel that I am underperforming. I fight the battle of worry. I am at war with the world and my own internal battles when it comes to raising my children.
Adjusting and accepting imperfection is hard. Perfection is a double-edged sword. A sword I keep carrying around. I am stubborn and want to stand strong. I have learned that strength is not perfection. Strength is accepting defeat when necessary. Learning from life’s lessons and improving is sometimes more rewarding that struggling with the impossible.
It takes mere seconds to snuff out excitement. The sparkle and smile of hope will disappear faster than it took to create. The hours or days it took to work up to the point where one wants to take a chance is easily erased by one person’s negativity.
Wanting to accomplish my own goals of writing, I see how often encouragement can help fuel excitement. I see how doubt can dull one's ambition. It's my job to add fuel to my children's fire, not douse the flames.
Worry. Love. Protect. Repeat.Daily, hourly, and minute by minute.