Tuesday, October 15, 2013

We Are Learning To Smile Through The Tears, Life Lessons Learned on a Sheep Ranch

I mentioned in a previous post a while back that I felt lucky to have made it through our
County Fair this year. Truth be told there were some hard and disappointing moments. Today I thought I'd share this experience with you. I strongly believe that one of the best ways to teach my children the lessons of life and the character traits needed, is through farming and ranching experiences and participation in the 4-H program. I like to give my children as many of these experiences as I can to help them become the people I know they can be. Our family has been in the sheep industry for decades. My dad still operates a large sheep operation in Sanpete County which my Grandpa operated before him. So sheep have been in our lives forever. I decided to give my girls a more individual experience with sheep this year. Since their birth they have been involved with helping me feed and care for our bummer (orphaned) lambs every year, but they have never experienced the show before. I asked them if they wanted to show some lambs this summer. They said "yes, we do!" So Grandpa Joe bought some fancy show lambs in the Spring and we got started feeding and leading!
We practiced leading, setting up, showing almost every day this summer. It took a lot of our time and energy. There were many times when the girls complained and asked "are we done yet?" There were tears shed at first especially from my youngest, who by nature is very timid, shy, doesn't like attention, and is not by nature "tough." Which is one of the reasons I wanted her to have this experience. I was extremely understanding at first of her fear. The lamb was wild. He was bigger than her. And I was kind and patient in my ways of helping her to overcome her fears. It was inevitable that she would cry at some point in our practice every time. And that was okay. Our goal was to make these crying sessions and dramatic moments happen less often. My oldest just went about her work without the tears and drama of the younger. Which is just the way they are, very opposite of each other and that's great! We practiced, practiced and practiced. The show was upon us. As my littlest girl weighing 38 pounds led her 155 pound lamb to the show tent she was ready! That is, until she saw all the people sitting in the stands!! When she entered the ring she was paralyzed with fear. She can be so shy at times and this was one of those times. I told her it would be okay and that I would be there. I stood in the corner of the ring where she could see me and an older more experienced girl walked with her as she showed her lamb in the Market Class. I was able to snap a picture of her as she entered the ring that day. It is priceless to me. She has tears in her eyes, but she manages a smile and continued on with what she started. When she exited the ring with her blue ribbon there was a bigger smile on her face! She had been rewarded for her hard work. That was the last class for her that day. But I wanted to get one more practice session in, in the show ring before the Showmanship Class that was to be the next day, thinking that it would give her more confidence if she was more comfortable working in the ring. Both girls performed perfectly. Even the littlest was able to do everything all by herself without tears and I felt confident in her abilities to compete the next day. In the morning we practiced one more time. This practice session went quite different than the night before to my dismay! The tears and "I can't do it's" came back and I was wishing I hadn't suggested another practice at all! Grandpa walked up and asked me if I was being a little hard on her. I would have agreed with him if this was her first experience, but I have seen her do it and knew she could do it. Yes, I was not as patient as I was in our first encounters.  Yes, I was "pushing" her a little. Not to be perfect, not to do that which she was unable, but to help her understand that she knows what to do and to help her to find the confidence that she could do it! I'm happy to announce that after the breakdown in the parking lot, she went in there and showed her lamb to the best of her ability and without any tears. I was super proud of her because I know it was hard for her. Another blue ribbon was won and she was pleased. When it was all over she asked me "Mom, why did you want me to do this?" Very profound question and I'm glad that she asked me. I explained to her that I want to give her experiences in her life that will help to build her up. I wanted her to see that she could do hard things. I wanted to give her opportunities to be in front of people and help overcome her shyness. I wanted to give her an experience that would teach her that she can be tougher than she thinks she can. I think she understood. I asked her if she thought she wanted to do it again next year. She said, "I'm not sure yet." That's fair, I can go with that. I like to give my kids experiences and opportunities, but would never make them do things they didn't enjoy. But I will however help and encourage them to finish what they start as we did with our show lambs this year. I have a deep respect for the farmers and ranchers of our country. They sacrifice much to bring good, safe food to the tables of America. And I will continue to use the farm and ranch opportunities and experiences to teach my kids about hard work, sacrifice, determination, perseverance, animal husbandry, self confidence, grit, respect, delayed gratification and many other qualities that I feel are important. Even though I know it was hard and she had to stretch and grow a lot, I am so proud of her and what she was able to do. I hope that she always remembers the day she overcame her fears and emerged triumphant!

We will keep building character, doing our best here on "Patch-A-Heaven" and we hope you have a great day!! And don't forget to thank a farmer/rancher!!

Here are a few pics from our sheep show:

Pretty proud of herself! Makes my heart smile!

The blue ribbon cuties!

Waiting to go in the ring.

What do I do for exercise you ask? Well there's this new craze in workouts, it's called lamb walking!

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