And, now … the rest of the story.
|Some call it the closest thing to Heaven.|
While to some, that sounds like the closest thing to Heaven; I could not wait to get out. I knew I was city-bound, though I did not know where. Since then, I have bounced around the country and landed in a mid-sized city in Virginia, with pretty much all the amenities a person could need or want. It is the city my husband and I chose five years ago to raise a family. Now, I question whether we made the right choice. Coming from a small town seems like such a sheltered life, but now it seems that’s just what parents want—to shelter their children from what seems to have become a scary world, at times.
Where I grew up, the kids worked. I mean, really worked. Cleaning your room, taking out the garbage, doing dishes, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, feeding the cattle during a blizzard after school and before you started homework … that was not work. Those were chores. We were the hired hands on our farm. I turned baby bulls into steers. I climbed to the top of grains bin when it was 100 degrees as the auger emptied dusty wheat into them. I tromped down hay in a metal cage to build 20’ haystacks. I tilled the fields in the tractor. One summer, the only way my dad would let me go to volleyball camp is if I agreed to milk the cow once a day for the summer. Damn, I hated it! But, sometimes I think about what little work ethic I will be able to instill into my kids where we live now.
We rarely went to a restaurant of any kind. It’s likely that once every six months is a generous estimate. Now, we have family date night at a restaurant once a week. But, it occurred to me that maybe noisy restaurants aren’t the right place for family date night. It’s hard to hear. We’re always worried about the baby getting restless. I stress over how much food has hit the floor and over tip because of it. How much “quality” family time is that? It gets me out of cooking and doing dishes, but sometimes it’s just more calming to be home. Maybe it would be better for my family if I didn’t have the option.
The only time we would have fast food was on a once a year trip to see my relatives in Wichita, KS, or when our high school bus would stop at the nearest McDonald’s after an away game. I will admit my kids eat fast food an average of once a week. Though, when doing so, I do my best to choose the healthy options—white milk and fruit, no fries. But, that’s never going to be better than what I could cook for them at home. The many chain restaurants stare me down as I drive the kids home after school, knowing my options at home are slim. It’s just too easy. It would probably be better for my family if I didn’t have those choices.
Organized sports during the school year didn’t exist until 5th grade, and that was a few weeks of basketball on Saturdays during the winter. Where I live now, you could overlap activities for 3-year-olds all year long if you wanted. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to make the choice to enroll them or not to.
The only stores I went to with my mom were in our small little town, and the toy selection was … well, it wasn’t. I take my kids to Target on a weekly basis, and all I feel like I do is say “No.” While these conveniences just five minutes from my house are wonderful, sometimes I wish I never had to take my kids anywhere where they would see something they want. The battle is tiring.
When I was a kid, we didn’t have soccer nets, fancy baseball equipment, children’s museums, or parks down the street. We created our own fun with anything we could find around the farm. Old window weights, the gas tank, and a light pole were bases for baseball. Our bat was an old wooden bat I think my dad used as a kid. We got roller skates one year for Christmas, but the only smooth surface was a sidewalk/patio at the front of our house that took about 6.5 seconds to round—and that was if there was no collisions or you didn’t trip over the crack in the sidewalk. We created our own track meet with some hoed up dirt and an old board for a long-jump pit, and some homemade stands to hold a bamboo stick and a pile of hay for the high jump. Sometimes I wonder if my kids will ever want something so much they will invent it themselves.
I despised every one of those things as a child, but look so fondly on them now. I guess it says a lot about my parents that they were able to send five kids out on our own with an appreciation of where we came from—and wondering if it isn’t the best place to raise our own children. But, even if I came to the conclusion that raising my children on a farm in Western Nebraska was the best for them, I couldn’t do it. The life of the small American farmer is a tough one—and getting tougher every day. I’ve become too soft and too selfish for that life. Paul Harvey’s story was a lump-in-the-throat reminder of what this country was built on, and how far we have gotten away from it. My only hope is that those values will carry through to my children, regardless of where they are raised. God bless the American farmer.
Click here to see the Ram Trucks and Paul Harvey commercial.