Slow Down-Live, Breathe, Learn
In a world where children are continually busy-running from one activity to another-trying to keep up with school, chores, and soccer-it can be totally exhausting for the entire family. Maybe, during this season of “quiet quarantine,” we should step back, reflect, and consider the benefits of raising our children slowly.
For many years I was privileged to work along side some Mennonite and Amish woman. I cannot begin to describe the life lessons that I learned through Ida Mae, my elderly Amish boss. She had a gift to mentor young ladies, without even realizing it. She loved her husband and encouraged us younger women to love our husbands unconditionally-to encourage him, inspire his dreams, and always kiss him goodnight. She had such a great sense of humor!
But her funny stories of raising her nine children on their family farm are what I remember the most. As we worked along side of her, Ida Mae would tell us a story-often with a lesson on child rearing. Her no-nonsense approach, her desire to want her children to love the Lord, and her simple life inspires me to this day.
One sunny Florida day, speaking in her soft Dutch accent, she reflected on the benefits of raising children slowly, surrounded by family and working together on their family farm. She encouraged us younger moms (I was pregnant with baby number 2) to embrace each season with our children. Not to rush them, but rather allow them to explore all of God’s beautiful creation. She said to train them young, along side of you, to work-to do chores-to make sure they knew how valuable they were to the family. My curiosity was peaked. She made it sound so simple.
It was many years later that we finally bought a small farm. I couldn’t wait to get my first chickens! My love affair began….and the animals keep coming. Today, as I watched my kids feed their animals, the memories of Ida Mae came flooding back. She has gone on to her “heavenly home” but her wisdom will forever remain in my heart.
With the sun finally shining, baby lambs arriving, and goats escaping again, I look back with no regrets at raising our children around farm animals. It’s smelly at times and even expensive, but the life- long benefits are priceless.
Benefits of Growing Up on a Farm
1. They Learn Responsibility
Despite the fact the most children do not like to do any sort of chores, they are beneficial to them. It gives them a sense of belonging and importance in the family unit.
2. Strong Work Ethic
There is nothing like daily chores to make you appreciate hard work. Life is hard. Things don’t always go our way and they may even completely fall apart. But farm kids learn to pick themselves up and never quit. Our kids know the hard work it takes to feed and water animals-in all kinds of weather-only to sell them at the 4H market for a loss. It can be very disappointing, but that’s life. It never deters them but rather pushes them to do better the next time around. Quitting is never an option.
Confidence is important, but humility is too. There is nothing like getting bucked off your horse or getting hit on the backside by your stubborn goat to bring you down a peg or two. All while your siblings sit on the porch laughing…not that anything like that happens around our little farm. (not with my angelic children!)
4. There is NOTHING like farm work to keep you in shape!
Our children are physically fit. There is always physical labor that needs to be done that requires muscles…stacking hay bales, chopping wood, and even wrestling that sweet old goat or chasing a very strong pig into the trailer for the Farm Fair. (seriously, you have not lived until you try to convince a pig to get into a trailor!)
5. Children in the Country are Healthier
I heard once that a household without dust would make children more likely to be sick…ok, maybe that’s my excuse for my current dust situation…but it sounds reasonable to me! Our little farm and house are clean enough to be healthy, yet there is still pollen and allergens all over the place. Being exposed to this, along with lots of dirt, means that my children are less likely to get sick. Think about vaccinations-if you take the chicken pox vaccine you are simply getting a small amount of chicken pox in your system and your body learns to fight it off. It’s the same effect.
Another health factor is less stress. A study by Environment and Behavior showed that kids with natural scenery have less stress than those who don’t.
I think it all goes together…natural, low stress environment, builds the immune system. Along with fresh eggs and vegetables, and parents who are more likely to be home more working along side of the children, lends to a healthier child.
6. Less Media
This is not always the case, but lots of farms are in areas with poor internet and/or cable access. Children are so influenced by what they see on TV or what they hear on the radio or TV. For many years we did not own a TV. When we finally got a television we had no cable. Today, with our smart TV and cell phones, we limit screen time for our children-even our older ones. It’s not healthy to sit in front of video games and TV all day long.
7. They Learn Practical Knowledge
They may not be a vet (yet) or an accountant, but children who grow up in the country on a farm will have a general knowledge of medicine, finances, and time management at an early age. Our kids have learned how to care for sick animals, have experienced the joy of birth, and the sadness of death. They have worked on machines, built fences, and invented ways to feed and water the animals. It’s biology and physics, mixed with a little environmental science, botany and carpentry!
There are TONS of benefits of raising your children on a farm and in the country. Spending lots of time outside gives kids a front row seat to God’s amazing creation as it unfolds. There is something special about the smell of freshly cut grass, the budding of your vegetable garden, and the glimpse of a black bear eating your blueberry bush (yes, this happen to us in Pennsylvania!).
I’ve often said that “life is not the Disney channel.” Life can be harsh. Living in the country allows our kids to experience nature’s harsh side. For example, we have witnessed, with great distress, as a hawk swooped down and grabbed a hen…only to be taken to its nest for dinner. And did you know that a frog will make a terrible shrieking sound while being eaten by a snake? (yes, that was one for the books!). Being a part of 4H has taught our children the realities of raising a pig, only to sell it to the market for tomorrow’s bacon.
I realize that not everyone dreams of living on a farm or even in the country. You can still slow down and enjoy nature. Take walks, plant a garden, put up a bird feeder, or simply go fishing.
Just slow down…take a deep breath, live, and learn…do life together.