The Children I Never Had
So, today I came across an article about 20 habits that changed people’s lives. One of them was “stop shouting”, and I realized: Oh, damn, that’s me.
Okay, so maybe not shouting. More like I’m seriously annoyed at you belligerent sheep kinda voice raising.
See, right before I read this article, I had endured a tough morning. Actually, a tough couple of days.
I was on my own at the farm, as Antonio and Saqib were hosting an event downtown, and it seemed like everyone (read: all the sheep) was choosing now to act up.
I felt like a parent who was trying to keep a gigantic family of rambunctious kids in line. Some moments, I’d successfully harness the power of patience, while other moments, I’d growl and grumble at the slightest annoyance.
But there was one situation that, no matter how much parental fatigue I was feeling, required that my discipline game was on point.
Clyde was undergoing punishment for recently killing a lamb. It had been one of the most distressing moments for me to witness our pup commit such an atrocious act.
In response, we had taken away the one thing he cherished the most: his freedom. Oh, and meat.
He was being kept in a sheep pen, though at one point he managed to jump out. So, now not only was he confined to the pen, but he was also tied up to a chain. It wasn’t easy to do — but it was some necessary tough love.
Clyde would whimper and poke his head up over the pen when we were in the barn feeding the sheep.
Olive seemed down in the dumps too. Sometimes we’d let her in and she’d run over to see her brother. They’d have a moment of touching noses and communicating silently through their eyes. Then, I’d lead her away — visiting hours were over, sister.
After a couple of days, we let Clyde have yard time so he could release all the pent up energy that a detained mountain dog needs to release.
Then, we’d bring him back into his cell to remind him of his sins. I couldn’t even bring myself to be around him those first couple of days. I just felt so betrayed by his actions.
But now that it was just me at the ranch, I had to do the deed of letting Clyde out for some air time.
As I approached him, he jumped up at me, pulled back down by the chain, a crazed look in his eye.
Then he sat down abruptly, staring up hard at me like he was promising — begging me — that, yes, doing time had changed him. He had seen the light and the world where little lambs always live.
“Oh, man,” I said, looking down at the manic expression on his face. “You need to go.”
I unchained Clyde and opened the barn door. He dashed out, disappearing into the snow.
Over the next few days, we slowly worked on reintegrating Clyde back into a normal routine. I still haven’t given him any physical affection — I’m not ready to return to our normal relationship yet — but I can tell that he’s trying.
Sometimes I feel like I’m raising the children — all 21 lambs, 30 some odd sheep, plus two dogs — that I never had.
And I imagine that as a parent, when your kids aren’t hearing you, it can be epically frustrating in the moment.
Or when they do something so incredibly disappointing, you have to find the right balance of teaching them a lesson and showing them that you haven’t completely disowned them.
I’m learning too. Learning how to speak calmly when all I want to do is shout. And learning how to stay strong when forgoing the discipline is the easy way out. Hopefully, our farm kids will be all the better for it!
>> Read the next post in the #farmlifebestlife series: Falling On Ice