Responding to the growing capacity of children to take on more responsibility takes focus. I am trying to be sure to include that focus, and what flows from it, as part of an evolving work/life balance.
If we do nothing intentional towards the skill development of successive generations, then they will imitate us and learn just by being around us. Being a good role model helps, but it seems there is much improvement possible.
Work, as quality time for children, can be a tremendous opportunity for growing together. Overwork, on the other hand, can sour the beauty of youth. What is that saying: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” I’m not picking on “Jack,” but there is a lot of truth to this saying.
I just can’t make fun out of cutting old burdock plants, unless machetes, or sword-like tools can be used! Grooming horses that have found these plants in their manes and tales is just not fun.
Preventing the problem isn’t fun either.
I face these dilemmas almost daily and I try to convince the grandkids of the value of taking pride in looking after the wonderful space we occupy.
The other day, to get out of the rain I decided to fix a chain saw with water in the gas, as a work opportunity for a grandson. What a learning opportunity it was for both of us.
The throttle and choke mechanism was complicated on this small saw, but the look on the kid’s face when it fired up after a couple of hours of “work” was worth what patience I put into the task.
During the process, I told him that he would be a “genius” if the saw worked, for all his help and observation as we put it back together. I would, it follows, be the dumb tutor if it didn’t work.
Fishing always wins out over what I call work. A close second is the opportunity to drive something, especially an ATV. In all these matters safe practices must prevail.
My self-challenge is to find enjoyment in the task, like fixing barb wire fence in the rain and the bugs, all the while coaching the youngsters. I give myself some good marks for my effort, less so with the immediate results.
The ability for a youngster to start earning money, in addition to their keep can be a real incentive. Then there is some work that is just helping grandma and grandpa as our ability to do the heavy lifting diminishes with age.
Along with these thoughts, I am remembering that we chose the farming/ranching lifestyle because it was a good place to raise children. There is so much they get to do to respond to their innate desire to be helpful, to imitate adults and to “own” a piece of the farm’s production.
Growing to become a productive well-rounded citizen is the end goal—each according to their needs and abilities.
David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.
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