Neither S nor C showed animals at the county fair this year. In fact, neither of them even entered any 4-H projects.
There was a little piece of me that missed walking through the 4-H building to find their things, and I did, for a split second, miss the hustle and bustle of show days.
But honestly, most of me did a happy dance when they decided not to show calves this year.
Don’t get me wrong. I think they both learned a lot from taking animals to the fair, but what a time commitment for them (and for Tim and me)! Last year we had several days when we were in the barn for 15+ hours, and if you know me, you know I’m really not a fan of barn duty. (Tim and I worked this out years ago: I don’t milk his cows and he doesn’t grade my papers.) Throw in the fact that our fair runs from the last Thursday in August through Labor Day, and that school starts the day after, and it really becomes a time issue.
It was totally their decision not to show.
For C it was easy – it was a lot of work for very little return. He showed because S did, and because his dad did as a kid. He felt obligated to keep the family tradition going even though it was obvious he was not really having fun doing it.
But for S? It was much harder. She has placed first each time she has shown, and there is something about the prepping and organizing that excites her. However, she had a list of things she wanted to do this summer (basketball, Apostle Islands, volunteer counselor) that she knew would take away from time needed to work with the animals.
As the fair drew closer she started talking about wanting to show again next year, but in the same breath, she talked about how small the 4-H club had gotten; how she worried that not everyone would pull their weight, and that, as the oldest, she would be the one to do most of the work; about how she didn’t get to just hang out with her friends when she had so much barn duty.
So, we had a long talk. I told her I was fine with her showing next year, but what was she going to give up?
Did she want to skip playing AAU basketball?
Did she want to just go to day camp instead of resident camp so she could be home every night to walk her calf and heifer?
And that week in Pictured Rocks she has her heart set on next summer? There’s no way she can be gone that week. Animals need to be washed and clipped, hooves need to be trimmed, and the decorations for the barn displays have to be finished.
I didn’t tell her she couldn’t. I just told her she needed to think about what would go if we added that back.
There are only so many hours in the day and so many days in the summer.
As much as she would love to do it all, I’m trying really hard to help her find a sense of balance.
I want her to find what she really loves.
I want her to her to take advantage of the opportunities that come her way.
I want her to realize