by Maryclaire Mayes
Reflecting back on our child rearing years, we never worried about giving our kids everything they wanted. We thought that if they have everything they want as a child, they might grow up with unrealistic expectations and turn into unhappy adults. We didn’t buy them many toys. I often told Dean I was glad we were poor when the kids were little so we couldn’t buy them all the popular toys. We went so far as to give away toys they had received as gifts from friends and relatives if we didn’t think they were worthwhile. That only worked for a few years though.
When our children were nine and six years old we moved out to the country on a run down farm. They loved the freedom of running through the open fields. We lived in a tent for four months while we gutted and rebuilt the farmhouse. We all worked hard from morning to night, but our children were genuinely happy. We had already decided we would start homeschooling our kids but decided to wait until the next year when the house project was done (or at least further along) and we also could research just how we would go about homeschooling. When September rolled around I cautioned our children to never tell anyone at school you live in a tent. I was concerned someone might want to come investigate our “home”.
Our kids helped in all aspects of gutting and restoring our house. They carried armloads of debris out to the dumpster and even helped with the plumbing.
Ok, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all work; we did get them each a kitten, which lived with us, and our dog in our tent. Sometimes they would draw on the backs of the stacks of sheetrock that we were going to put up on the walls. They enjoyed helping to measure mark and cut. In their spare time we asked our kids to pick up the old rusty nails that littered our driveway. If they picked up a full coffee can of nails, we paid them with a trip to town to get an ice cream.
That spring we planted a huge garden and our chief planters, weed pullers, and bug pickers were our two kids. I was amazed how hard they worked without complaints. Livestock was the next project on our list. When we finished rebuilding the chicken coop and the barn we bought two goats (my daughter wanted a horse but had to make due with goat) and several chickens, our kids were responsible for their total care. Our daughter got up early and milked the goat and our son collected eggs, feed and watered the chickens before they went to school. Those years were full of learning difficult lessons by experience and receiving the rewards for their hard work.
Looking back, I see how those hard life lessons were making life easy for them as adults. Not really making life easy, but teaching them useful skills. Beyond, plumbing and gardening, it taught them how to work hard, to not be afraid to try, never say can’t and to handle life’s challenges with grace. We are pleased that our children are teaching their kids that they don’t need everything they want and work is good. There is a quote I recently came across that I really like; “Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” Robert A. Heinlein
by Maryclaire Mayes
“Try to Remember”, pretty sure that was a song in the 60′s but sometimes it’s hard to remember what I had for breakfast or even if I did have breakfast. Lately we have had the grandkids here a lot. Three of the older four are usually here two afternoons a week and guess what? They love working at Alabu and are actually helpful. So that’s an added bonus especially now in Alabu’s busiest season.
We have also had a few overnights with our son’s oldest ( 3 and 18 months, so not so old) while mom and dad were busy with their newest baby. As you can guess, that kept Papa and Grammy pretty busy too. I even heard a rumor that Papa got to change a dirty diaper, but I did not witness said adventure, although I do have a little too much first hand experience with it myself.
You are probably wondering where the “Try to Remember part of this story is right? Well our daughter asked if we could watch her four ( the older grands, 9, almost 8 and 5 & 5) for a few hours in the afternoon ( I suspect it was for Christmas shopping, the kids said they weren’t allowed to ask). Turns out we had unexpectedly, had the younger ones for an overnight again and all that morning. When our daughter’s kids arrived in the afternoon, they happily helped me finishing boxing the Alabu Replenish. After that three decided to go outside and play. It was about 38 degrees out and they came back in exhilarated and ready to play. Their new level of energy was a little more than I was happy with and I yelled at them a few times to quiet down. But it was no use, with the excitement of Christmas around the corner they just could not contain themselves. I tried a few times to teach them a quiet game but it was no use and fairly hysterical. So while Papa took over and had the kids sit in the living room for story time ( he eventually gave up and turned on Mr. Rogers) I started dinner and tried to remember what it was like to be so young and unable to contain my excitement about Christmas coming. I think I do remember and I hope you do too.
by Maryclaire Mayes
Teach them well. Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, we really love having our grandkids come up and hang out here. Dean would tell you that we like the free labor. But anyone who tries to get work done with 6 kids, between the ages of 1 and 9 would tell you it is more work to have them “help” than if you did it yourself. But we just enjoy having them around. Actually this year some of them are really good helpers. One day I lost track of Miss Number One, she was in the other room wrapping soap for me!
I saw something recently that reinforced what we did with our kids, and now teach our grandkids too. What am I talking about? Getting kids involved in work, and creative activities that are a reward in them selves. Teach real life skills like gardening, raising animals, repair skills, sewing, cooking, camping, hiking, exploring and helping others. Things that shape them. These things give kids a real feeling of accomplishment and are important life lessons.
Working with your kids and grandkids on projects, adventures and responsibilities like these not only teach useful skills, they also instill values, self-reliance and caring for others. We enjoyed our kids when they were little – not to say we don’t enjoy them now too :o) – and they worked alongside us and also learned to like the things we liked, x-country skiing, rock climbing, camping, horseback riding etc. I think letting your kids be involved in your life is one of the best things you can teach them.
by Maryclaire Mayes
I am so amazed and thankful for our grandkids attitudes about work. For the most part they love to help. They were always eager to help when they were very young, but have actually gotten to the stage where they are actually a big help, but trust me in didn’t start that way. You do have to let toddlers help when they want to or when they are old enough to really help they won’t want to. Now they all love to help with Alabu, boxing soap is their speciality right now. In the barn they will help clean the paddock, collect eggs and they love to groom Caddy or give him a bath. In the garden, they plant, mulch, weed and harvest. They all want to help with whatever they find us busy doing. They are pretty good at sticking to the task until it is finished. Although sometimes they get distracted by worms, bugs, snakes, cats and dogs, but that is a good thing too. I try to keep reminding myself when I’m trying to get a chore done :o) I’m so thankful that our grandkids are learning to be responsible adults, exploring their world with love and curiosity.
by Maryclaire Mayes
This time of year it seems nature is in denial. The stores have already moved on to Fall, no turning back. I took this picture the first week of August, really halloween already? I know that Summer is almost over, but please don’t rush it. Some parts of nature are moving towards the next season, like the male hummingbirds are not in denial, they have already migrated, they always leave first to get the best spots for the ladies who join them later.
The hundreds of noisy grackles have flocked, cackled and passed through on their way south. Some of my vegetables are done but most of the gardens are at the height of production. The Fall crops are ripening and the elderberries have all been eaten by the birds ( except for some I was able to get to first). The late raspberries are a sight to behold ripening on bowing branches. I’m having a hard time keeping up with them and all the cucumbers, zucchini, pole beans, melons and tomatoes.
The weather seemed to be gradually moving to more Fall-like weather last week and then the 90 degree days and hot nights were back! Here and there are small signs of foliage losing their chlorophyll and changing color, but for the most part it seems greener later than usual. So as I contemplate the seasons changing and look forward to the next, I’m going to take time to appreciate the last glow of summer here on the farm, maybe I’m a little in denial.