I’m trying to teach my son to stop playing his DS every second. To be honest, I’m a crappy role model. I mean, if I were great at having enough self-discipline to follow through consistently on my idea of proper parenting, things would be different.
I would say: No DS today.
He would say: I hate you.
For the whole day. In the best case. In the worst case, he’d beat up his brother. Not from hatred, but from boredom.
I know that if you sent in Super Nanny she would have the DS under limited play in one minute. So I tell myself I’m going to do that. Tomorrow.
It’s a willpower thing. I mean, parenting is so hard because each fight you decide to fight is a fight. There are no kids who learn to say thank you without you bugging them.
So you have to bug them, routinely. But the farm is great for routine, so I have high hopes that I’ll find direction and improve, if I just keep adding routine.
Sometimes it’s simple, like opening the gate each time we enter the farm. We could put a cattle guard at the opening of the farm made of ridges on the ground that make the cattle uneasy so they move away from the spot. But I don’t want that. I like the rhythm of opening the gate.
It’s sort of like saying a prayer before you start a meal. I think ritual is a good way to separate things that are important. And driving up to the farm, after all I’ve been through to get to live here, is a spiritual experience.
Sometimes the routine is bigger. Like cooking three meals a day. People can’t believe I do it. Without a dishwasher or a microwave. But I like the rhythm it creates. I know that routine begets routine and the things I really want to achieve require a lot of self discipline.
I want the same things that a lot of people want:
Live within my budget
Like, if it’s 7:30, then the farmer leaves to do chores.
I do an if/then statement like, if it’s 7:30 and the kids are quiet and I haven’t eaten a huge breakfast and I’m not totally stressed about work, then I will exercise.
It’ll never work. I know that. So the more routine I put around my day the less chance there is for a messy if/then moment.
And this is why I agreed to get a dog.
You might think that’s insane when I have had such an incredibly difficult adjustment to learning to live on a farm, and be married to a farmer. You’d think that I’d just want to focus on that and not make more trouble.
But my eight-year-old says he does not have enough responsibility for the farm animals. He loves them. The kids go out every morning before school, in freezing cold conditions, and feed the ducks and hens and barn cats. The kids collect eggs twice a day, and when a cat is sick, the kids take care of it (before a wild animal eats it).
But my son has a point: He has very little responsibility relative to, say, the farmer, who deals with 1000 pigs and 1000 cattle. Or however many there are. It’s a lot. And my son wants to be a farmer.
So we agree to get a dog. He wants the high-maintenance kind, and I wonder if that is sort of like a guy choosing a bride who is like his mom.
He wants a dog that will sit in his lap and follow him all over the place and, in general, be needy.
We look on the internet to adopt a dog. We want one that is older so we don’t have to potty train it.
The farmer has owned many dogs in his life. He has lots of opinions.
My son finds a dog that is half Pitbull and half Border Collie. He shows it to us.
The farmer says, “Great, it can bite you and then run for help.”
The farmer points out that all dog breeds are meant for a job. Retrievers retrieve, Basset Hounds sniff, Pitbulls protect. The farmer says you have to let the dog do its job or it will not be happy. (This sounds like the animal version of my favorite career counseling book, Do What You Are. The problem that people have, which dogs don’t, is that people judge certain jobs as “good” and others as “bad,” and often the result is a person refuses to see what is really right for them.)
The farmer does not want any dog that wants to mess with animals. For example, a Sheepdog is meant to herd animals, so we can’t have it around the cattle. “My cattle are quiet,” says the farmer. “The dog would drive them crazy.”
My son likes a three-legged Coondog. He likes that the dog has a story — run over by a car in Kentucky. Shipped to Wisconsin by a couple who specializes in pouring tons of cash into injured animals. And now, after an amputated leg, the dog’s only problem is forgetting that he can’t lift his leg to pee.
The farmer likes the idea of a coondog who can’t run. Its job is to hunt, but if it can’t hunt, it’ll be quiet. The farmer likes quiet.
Do you know how people get dogs that look like them? I fear it is too predictable that we would end up with a three-legged dog.