Playing Around

Play.  When was the last time you played?  Really played?

I have strawberry plants.  I have a 300 gallon tank of water and a bunch of catfish.  I don’t know what I don’t know but I’m doing it anyway.  And having fun.  It’s fun.  But is it play?

I don’t know.  I’m fully engaged.  I’m in the moment.  I’m taking risks and am more concerned with the action than with the outcome.  But I’m also learning.  Experiencing.

But is it play?

What do the kids think?  Well.  We dug a big hole in the greenhouse for a 300 gallon tank.  The kids helped.  For a while.  Then they headed off to the swings.  What happened?  Did they simply have enough?  Can an 8 year old boy get enough of digging a hole?  Maybe he can if the hole is regulated (so deep, so wide, so long and in the greenhouse).

Can this become play?  Can I play with my kids and still get my chores finished?

Those animals have to eat.  They need clean sheets.  Somebody has to cook and cooking/eating requires clean dishes…that somebody has to wash.  Where is the fun in that?

I think it’s all fun.  Sometimes there are aches and pains, sore muscles after a hard day’s work or an impressive feat of strength or endurance (lol).  Sometimes there are bad smells.  Sometimes your sock gets wet or something splatters on you.  Well.  Maybe it’s cause I’m still a boy.  It’s fun.  I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t fun.

But fun is subjective.  Fun is up to you.  I asked Dr. Singh (my botany/microbiology professor in college) how he adjusted to an arranged marriage. He told me something I have always carried with me.  “Chris, you have to decide, DECIDE to love that person every morning.  Even outside of an arranged marriage that’s true.”  Please allow me to twist that back to the topic.  Each day I have to decide to embrace the work before me.  In fact, I usually plan out my day well in advance and finalize plans in the minutes between waking up and getting up by listing the major goals.

Yesterday I moved some catfish to the pond (aquaponics hasn’t cycled yet), fed, watered and moved the broilers, fed the pigs then worked for my employer till noon.  At lunch I hauled a load of manure after cleaning out the stalls.  After work in the afternoon I went to pick up feed at the mill with my dad then came home to build fence for the cows.  The kids had been gone all day and were tired as the sun was setting and really didn’t want to help dad build fence.  I’m happy to slog through it but it’s my dream, not theirs.  Not yet anyway.

What am I teaching my children?  How can I encourage them to embrace my dreams?  to find the fun in the tasks I set before them?  How can I lead them to my vision without convincing them I am insane?

Just as Dr. Singh told me I had to decide to love my wife every morning, I have to make positive decisions about my kids too.  They are kids after all.  It can’t all be about work, no matter how fun the work is.  They need time to play.  They need opportunities to explore.  They need time to fail.  And I need to be right there.  We make tipis, we make cardboard haunted houses, we make paper halloween masks.  We listen to silly songs, read Hank the Cowdog books.  We go swimming when it’s cold, all of us standing at the edge of the pond shivering and daring each other to go first.  Take a moment in your work day to just do something fun, even if there are no kids in your life.  Skip instead of walk somewhere.  Yes, you’ll look silly.  Maybe you’ll make somebody laugh.  Laugh too.

Those things have to be in my planner.  There is so much work on the farm (the no fun, workey kind of work) that I have to be purposeful about planning activities that include the kids.  I don’t want to farm alone.  This has to be a multi-generational deal and I have to be training my replacements.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses.  I’m really not very good at this parenting thing, though I excel at work.  I mean, I’m a machine.  I can work and just keep working.  But I get a little jittery sitting still for too long having tea or playing legos.  It’s also difficult for me to manage my reactions when a little helper tangles up a spool of electric fence as darkness swallows us in the pasture.  I have to remember that failure is part of learning.  They make mistakes, we take a moment to talk about it and I tread carefully so I don’t crush them.  I make mistakes and I hope they will continue to decide to love me anyway.

Am I having fun farming?  Yes.  Am I having fun parenting?  I have decided the answer is yes.  And I have to positively decide to play through my day.  My kids won’t stick with it otherwise.  What’s the fun of doing this without my kids?

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