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Posts Tagged ‘horses’

It’s a cold, snowy day here in Michigan. Schools are closed because the roads are treacherously icy, so I had the luxury of sleeping in, although I do have fifty author projects from 7th graders on Google Docs to grade. There are fifty more projects waiting for me back at school, but that’s for another day. I’m feeling nostalgic right now.

On days like this, I say a prayer for those who work outside. I didn’t always get “snow days” off, but I’ll take them. I remember what it was like to work outside: in the cold, the snow, ice storms, pouring rain, tornado warnings, scorching hot heat waves. I did that for several years in my twenties and early thirties. I loved working with the farm animals, especially the horses, and people who take care of animals don’t get snow days, or heat days, or any other weather days. Animals need to be fed, watered, their stalls cleaned out every day, no exceptions, and I took pride in being “tough enough” to do it, although there were some pretty miserable days. Those days taught me a lot about work ethic and about myself. I had some pretty awesome mentors who were incredibly patient with me.

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Doing winter chores, whether at the farm or the carriage barn, was always an adventure. I remember my bangs freezing in a solid block from the breath vapor rising out of the woolen scarf wound around my face when the temperature was -5°. I was terrified that they would just break off with a snap. That was also the winter I got a giant lump on my forehead from slipping on the icy platform and hitting my head on the frozen metal water pump we were trying to turn on, fingers and toes uncooperative and numb. Eyes and noses would run in a constant stream from the cold. If any of the cows were being milked at the time, we would fight over who got to do it because that meant putting your hands on something warm for a little while, although it sometimes meant getting hit in the head with a frozen manure tail. On those brutal days, it would take more than an hour for the shivering to stop once we got inside, even with several cups of coffee.

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There were the spring and summer mornings when the tornado sirens would begin to go off, angry black clouds swirling around in the sky, the animals getting panicky. I was still terrified of tornadoes then, and I tried, unsuccessfully, to not let it show. Afternoons when it poured rain, the mud/manure mixture squelched up into our boots, through our stockings, weighing down the hems of the skirts and petticoats or the overalls we wore with sludge. The stains would never quite come out. One spring, the cellar of the farmhouse flooded and I sank almost to my knees in the dirt floor. My work laundry was always done separately from everything else and often had to be rinsed out first.

There were god-awful summer days when the actual temperature would be over 100°, our long sleeves and random pieces of hay glued to us, sweat trickling down every crevice, and people would complain that we weren’t offering carriage rides. My face, forearms, and hands would be a deep tan, but the rest of me was a pasty white.

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Spring lambs

All of these things were great adventures, and I could go on and on for days about all of it. Working in those conditions could be rough, but we bonded with each other over it all and made for some fabulous memories. I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences for the world, and it makes me appreciate days like this much more.

I miss it, working outside, but I’ve developed Renaud’s Syndrome and I can’t work in the cold for long anymore. My heart goes out to those who are working outside on days like this: mail carriers, construction workers, first responders, and the ones who work with outdoor animals to make sure they’re as comfortable as they can be in this weather. They all have their own war stories to tell, I’m sure.

Thanks for reading mine.

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After dropping my son off at jazz camp yesterday morning (yes, that’s a thing), I went to Greenfield Village for a walk before it got too hot outside.

I love the Village in the summertime. It’s delightfully busy, there are a lot of programs happening, and there are visitors from all over the world. When my boys were small, even though I worked there, I frequently brought them to visit on my days off. One of their favorite places was the 1885 working farm with the horses, cows, sheep, chickens, and pigs. They liked to get close to the pig pen, squeal, “Ooooh, stinky!” and run away, dodging chickens. They loved walking through the dusty barn to see which animals were inside for the day. Pointing out the piles of horse poop in the street after the carriages went by was also a popular pastime. It’s a great place to take kids, even if they don’t understand the historical aspect of the buildings yet, and lots of parents do just that.

Yesterday, just after I entered the gate, I saw an older couple with a young boy. The boy was probably around 6- or 7-years-old with white-blond hair and glasses, a real cutie. He was clearly excited to be there, especially when he caught sight of the horses in the paddock next to the carriage barn. What caught my attention first, however, was the mother roughly yelling at him to, “Get back over here!” when he was only a few steps away.

“Mama, Mama, look at the horses! Mama, look!” He wasn’t yelling, he was within a reasonable distance of his parents, and was simply being an excited little boy, wanting his mama to see what he was excited about. His parents were having none of it, though. I could hear them snapping at him as I passed, things like, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe this.” “I knew this was going to be a bad idea.” “I can’t believe we paid all this money…” “Get over here!” The father physically took him by the shoulders and moved him exactly in between the two of them. “You have to stay here“, to which the little boy said sadly, “I’m not having very fun”, just like that. The way he said it about broke my heart, since he had been so very happy only seconds before. His dad then told him, “Well, that’s because you make it not fun.” And that did break my heart, not just because that’s a mean thing to say to a little guy, but because it made me think of times when, as a parent of little guys like that, I had said something unkind to them in frustration or anger.

It takes a lot, and I mean a lot, of patience to be a parent sometimes. It can get to you, the messes, the crying, the tantrums, the schedule, and sometimes you say or do something that you’re not proud of. I’m not talking about being abusive, I mean that sometimes good parents have bad days and we don’t react as well as we should. We are definitely supposed to correct our children and teach them to be good humans, but we need to do it in a way that does not crush them. Should they feel guilty when they’ve done something wrong? Absolutely, but they should also know that making a bad choice doesn’t make them a bad person and that they are still loved even when they mess up. We don’t always model that well.

It still happens to me sometimes. I have a teenager who knows how to push my buttons. While I try to be calm when he tests his boundaries, I can lose my cool, especially when it’s blatant disrespect and I’m exhausted from a long day. It’s not easy, but we as parents have to remember that children’s brains are not done growing yet. They act out of emotion because they don’t know how to respond appropriately to emotions like anger and frustration, even when it has nothing to do with us. It’s our job to teach them how to handle those emotions in a non-destructive way, but it’s hard to keep that perspective when it feels like we’re being personally attacked. We have to, though. It’s our job and when we mess that up, we need to fix it.

I thought about that little boy and his parents a lot yesterday. As I had mentioned, his parents were older, I’d say early 50s. Were they tired? Is he a high-energy child and they have a difficult time coping with that? Had they had a rough morning? Were they at the end of a vacation and the parents were just done with it all? Or was that normal for them? I hope not. I have so many questions. I don’t know their story, but I hope that this was just a bad morning, that their day got better and this little boy doesn’t live with those words all the time. I hope that when they went home or back to their motel yesterday he got some snuggles, hugs, and kisses from his parents. I hope he went to bed feeling happy and good about himself. I hope he feels loved.

If you have kids, think about what you say before you say it. Words are powerful and what you say stays with them for a long time. Parents are human, we make (lots of) mistakes. The trick is to learn from them and make sure our kids know that we will always love them, no matter what they do.

Love to you all.

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