My best friend and I have a running joke for things we do that make people look at us weird.
Because there are very few things in this world that prepare you for life the way a childhood on a farm does. I’ve mentioned before how summer haying season goes? Heat doesn’t bother us. We are not delicate women.
Oddly, though, cold does bother me. I can’t speak for my friend, but for me? I don’t deal well with cold. Which is kind of odd since I spent most Februarys walking the forest checking tap lines. But I still hate the cold. Probably always will. There are just some things a girl won’t adapt to.
Lesson #1: You’re tougher than you think
Thing is, you get pretty tough growing up on a farm. The work never ends, so there’s no time for excuses. The animals depend on you, so there are no sick days. You learn to work through a certain degree of discomfort and pain. You learn that there are beings counting on you and you power through some of the crappiest conditions to just get the job done.
This lesson was invaluable to me as a new mom dealing with sleepless nights and now as a hockey mom watching my boys learn some tough lessons. It’s amazing how much just knowing you’ve been through worse helps alleviate the misery enough to cope.
Lesson #2: Fear is not productive
I am not a risk taker by nature. My life moves smoother if I have my days and seasons mapped out. I like knowing what comes next. When I talk about fear, it’s more in terms of fearing the unknown. As a teenager, I was a good cross country runner. I don’t know this because I ever participated on a team, but because twice a year, I would chase cows out to pasture and then back home. The terrain is garbage and more than once I would find myself in front of a herd of cattle that wanted to go somewhere they shouldn’t. On the occasions I let fear chase me out of the way, I would find myself running more because they got past me and we had to start over again.
So I learned that taking the risk is often the shortest route to success. It’s not always comfortable and my risks these days are far less dangerous, but when the fear starts nagging at me, this reminder helps push me forward.
Lesson #3: Depend on yourself
My dad lives alone on the farm now. About once a season or so, I get a phone call and I know when I pick up that he’s done something stupid. “Stace! Guess what dad did today?” It’s never a good sign when he talks in third person. Usually the story that follows is something along the lines of being out in the forest cutting trees and having one turn on him in a way he wasn’t expecting. It’s always a close call and often involves him diving out of the way. At this point, I remind him that he is in his sixties and no longer is a teenager. And he reminds me that he can’t wait around for someone to come and help him. And we go around that circle time and again.
While I don’t recommend cutting down trees solo (and my dad will never convince me otherwise), the lesson of “if you want something done, you have to do it yourself” still is valid. I could wait for someone to do the dishes or clean the house, or I could do it myself and enjoy the result. There’s nothing wrong with some independence. And I remind my children of that when it comes to their chores and responsibilities.
Lesson #4: Patience pays off
Mother Nature is a fickle character. The more you need the weather to cooperate, the less likely it will. On the farm, you learn to wait her out. And sometimes that wait might take years. In particular, haying season comes to mind here. You need a good stretch of sunny weather to cut, dry and bale hay. Last summer, that didn’t happen until well into August. Sure, we’d get a day or two, but not the 4-5 days a farmer needs. The same can be said for planting season. Plant too soon and crops are ruined by frost.
When it comes to learning a skill, or parenting my boys, I’m usually better off taking a deep breath and waiting things out. Let’s consider this a work in progress, shall we? Because my patience runs thin and runs thin often. And I forget to wait them out more often than I care to admit.
Lesson #5: Have a back up plan with a back up plan
Growing up, I lost count of the amount of times things didn’t go the way we planned. Syrup season? The length of the season (and therefore the quantity of syrup produced) depends on the weather being over freezing during the day and just under freezing at night for a good stretch of time. When your income depends on weather in that manner, you want to be sure you have a back up source of income. And maybe a really good idea of just how little you can survive on.
By nature or nurture, I’m a planner. I have things mapped out as far out in advance as I can. I’ve been known to have the boys signed up for hockey the same day registration opens. Same for summer camps. Inevitably, the means in which I get to the end goal change. But the goal itself does not. And because I have been ridiculous about planning out as far as I can, I have the time to change the plan but not the goal.
Childhood has a way of sticking with you. At this point, I’ve lived away from the farm as long as I lived on it. And I still live my life with those early lessons in mind. And I am thankful for sports for teaching my boys those same lessons. Practice might hurt, but it pays off. Fear won’t win a game, and you have to depend on yourself to do your job, no one else. Patience in a game puts you in the right place at the right time and having a back up plan helps when you aren’t in the right place.
The lessons are there if you look for them. And you don’t need a farm to learn them.
See you at the rink.