Picking up important lessons

“Have some kids,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. I openly confess that, even after major cash outlay into the “What to Expect” books (from pregnancy through the toddler years), I still did not feel adequately prepared for parenthood.

It starts with the daily struggle to keep your children alive. Kids aren’t plants, after all, and take a bit more than soil, water, and sunshine. Plants very rarely put themselves at risk of grievous bodily harm as children seem to do with greater and greater frequency as they get older. The very concept of feeding a child is in itself fraught with possible pitfalls and potentially poisonous potions.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of basic survival, there’s the issue of enrichment and education. Brain stimulation seems to be as essential as nutritional sufficiency. Besides, if they’re not occupied with something, they tend to get underfoot and then you’ve got that grievous bodily harm problem going again, only on yourself.

Right about now, you might be feeling like a successful parent. You’ve mastered the full belly and working brain. Two veritable Everests have been conquered. It is at this point that your inner voice asks, “But what will they be like when they grow up?”

Before hubby and I had our kids, we were living a comfortably cosmopolitan life. A rural lifestyle seemed more like a dream than a necessity. After the children arrived, though, we took a look at the state of education and crime in metropolitan areas and decided that raising country kids was the way to go.

Having both been raised as town kids, we didn’t exactly have previous experience, but we thought we could make it work.

Getting them used to taking care of critters was the easy part. We had always had house pets, so they were used to animals. The idea that someone besides Mom or Dad could indeed take care of said animals took a little longer to sink in, but seems to be successful, at least with a few reminders.

Even slaughter day is seeing a higher level of helpful participation. If nothing else, after slaughter is done, it’s one less pen of chickens to take care of.

I had to look the other way when Hubby taught both kids to drive the aging tractor. I might have been raised a townie, but the family and neighbors were all farmers, and I’d heard my share of horror stories about tractors.

So far, so good though. As a matter of fact, one of my proudest mommy days happened just lately when the whole family worked together to buck bales before the rain spoiled them. The kids took turns driving the tractor, and both did a fine job.

But even when you think you’re raising your country kids right, sometimes you just need a sign. You know, just a little something that lets you know that you’ve been focusing on teaching your kids about the lasting, important matters of life.

This weekend, I got just that sign.

We had gone up to Kansas City to see Sea Life and go to Bass Pro. After touring the aquarium and having lunch, we were hanging around in the mall. We walked past the escalators, and both kids’ eyes bugged out. “WOW, Mom! What’s THAT?”

“An escalator,” I said offhandedly. I even toyed with the idea of jostling my daughter as she stepped on. It dawned on me though, that I couldn’t actually remember a time and place where they would have seen escalators before.

We’re not homebodies or hermits, but let’s just say that our idea of a good time doesn’t usually involve being indoors in a multi-level location that needs moving staircases.

So there we stayed for the next quarter of an hour or so while the kids, wearing star-struck expressions, discovered the amazement and joy of escalators. They posed, they mugged, and tried to go opposite directions. And no, I didn’t jostle either one of them (since ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had the nagging feeling that my foot will get stuck in one).

I felt pretty good that they’ve had a whole lot of life experiences that didn’t require escalators. As a matter of fact, at the end of the day, their favorite part of the whole day wasn’t the expensive aquarium or the escalators. Their favorite part was the waterfall and fish tank at Bass Pro.

There it was. My sign that my country kids are doing just fine. Escalators are a novelty, and you don’t have to pay a lot of money to have a lot of fun.

Another school year is starting, which brings them one year closer to adulthood. Somehow I think they’re getting the important lessons, and they’ll turn out OK.

Shana Thornhill lives on farm near Marion. She can be reached at shotah76@yahoo.com.