I Am My Children’s First Impression

“So who takes care of all this?”

It’s a question I get every time someone visits our home. The big house, 30 plus acres, farm animals, pond and three energetic kids tend to overwhelm people as they watch the sights and smells unfold in real time.

“We do.” I answer. A little insulted that people expect my husband and I would need full time help to pull it all off.

The truth is, there’s an enormous amount of work that goes into caring for our family and property. We get up before the sun. The lawn mowing takes more than eight hours. Feeding animals and mucking stalls leaves a special, almost permanent scent on your hands and hair. Our oldest of three is six and our youngest is still in diapers. We both also have real jobs. Meetings, conference calls, work trips and deadlines.

So why take it on ourselves? Because there’s a tremendous sense of pride that comes from getting dirty and doing it yourself. It is our lifeblood. It is our legacy. It is our greatest responsibility as parents.

Work ethic is a not born trait. My littles don’t pop out of bed and pull on their mud boots willingly. It’s a battle to get them out the door most times to collect eggs from the coop. They think the sheep are scary and use this as an excuse not to help out in the barn. Our private lake is “too cold” to swim in and they find this an inconvenience. They don’t look at all they have and feel thankful. To them, this is how all of their friends are growing up. This is the norm.

It’s not my children’s fault that they are growing up with exponentially more than their peers. But it will be my fault if they turn into entitled little people. 

Being second generation only keeps you floating for so long. There are countless silver-spoon kiddos who swallow their legacy like Jell-O. We can set up savings accounts and stocks and give them a financial foundation to build on. But if they don’t learn how to respect and work tirelessly for the opportunities they are given, they will never be successful. Not at work. Not at home. Not in their relationships with people.

Our children learn by watching everything we do. They are part of the daily chores. They get dirty. They complain. They get boo boos. They get over it. Sure, I remember that they are children. But I push them harder than any teacher or bigger kid on the playground. It comes out of fear. Fear that they won’t understand how blessed their life is. To not have to worry about their safety or where their food comes from. To have two parents and grandparents who will cheer them on at every activity. To be able to choose from ballet, soccer, football, art classes or 4-H, and realize that these options are not available to everyone. So treat them like the treasures that they are. Because I want them to find something they are passionate about and take it in with every fiber of their being.

It comes from love. A fierce, get out of my mama bear way kind of love. They have to see to believe. Over and over again. A love for my job. The need to write, not just to collect a paycheck, but because I have something that’s gnawing at my brain I have to get on digital paper. It will most likely keep me up way past my bedtime because the to-do list of being a mom, a famer, a wife and self-employed means working overtime. But I love what I do. I love our life. And I will work ‘til I fall asleep standing up to protect what we’ve built for our family.

Life takes roll-up your sleeves, take out the trash, scrape the shit off your shoes hard work.

They don’t get it now. One day they will. Until that time, they will think dirty fingernails are normal. That every dad has cufflinks and is covered in poison ivy. That pretty Hunter boots are meant to be covered in goat poop, sheep poop, toddler pee and cedar chips. It’s not always pretty, but what you create with your own two hands will always be more beautiful.

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(Non) Stay-at-home mama raising my three screaming cubs while restoring our 35-acres of wilderness just outside of Cleveland. Copywriter, sheep herder and fixer upper. I live in muck boots, jeans and wear dangling toddlers as accessories.

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