Big City Lessons

My Generation

A trip to Chicago yield more than just a little fun and sightseeing. See what a couple farm kids learned about hard work and delayed gratification.

Published on: December 13, 2011
Well, it appears I ran out of words following 30 Days of Farms & Families! I'm so grateful to each of you who have read and commented, or who've stopped me in person and shared how much you enjoyed the series. I very much appreciate it, and it certainly makes all the late nights worthwhile! Mostly though, it made me realize how blessed we are in agriculture. This business is full of great people. How fortunate are we that we can know them? Very fortunate, indeed.

And yes, I have been MIA for the past few days, in part due to a loss of words, and in part due to a trip to the Illinois Farm Bureau meeting in Chicago. (And life and Christmas, but that's neither here nor there.)

We've enjoyed attending that meeting for years, and this year we decided to take our kids along. This made for a very different dynamic – no late nights in the Young Leader suite – but lots of great new experiences for our kids. Among the highlights was getting to take our nephew and a couple young friends out for dinner one night. They're all students at Moody Bible Institute, and all former members of our high school youth group. It was a blast to hear about their college experiences (so far) and to watch our kids practically attack them. They really love their cousin, Matt. He's sort of like a human jungle gym. Good times.

The kids also got to re-invest some hard-earned money. You may recall they each had bottle calves this past year. Nathan's steer will sell at the local Certified Angus Beef sale next month (the farm bought the steer for now, and he's on feed with the other calves now) and Jenna already sold her heifer calf to our neighbor and great friend, Mr. Jerry. Let me just tell you, she drove a hard bargain. Poor Mr. Jerry.

Farm kid makes a deal

So the upshot of all this was that we told them for all their hard work feeding those calves and caring for them, they'd each get 10% of their sales for spending. The rest goes into their individual savings, which they can put toward a show calf someday. Of their 10%, they're giving half to church and the other half they could spend.

On anything.

The power was intoxicating.

Nathan, being 6 and being a boy, really wanted Legos. And he'd heard tales from a cousin of an entire store devoted to Legos in Chicago. "Weally?" Really.

Jenna, 9, had been saving her money for a really long time. Like, including her share of their winnings from the county fair talent show. Add that to her calf money and her recent birthday money and she realized she had just enough for an American Girl doll, with just $2.50 to spare. It was quite the parenting moment to be able to help her add all this up and point out the wonders of delayed gratification - that if she had spent even $10 on some junky toy at Walmart at some point in the past few months, she wouldn't have had enough for her doll. That was huge. In a society that screams, "This looks fun! Buy it now!", spending wisely is terribly hard for kids to grasp. But this experience? It helped a lot.

And I'm thinking, as they spend their winter building Legos and playing dolls, that by the time spring rolls around again, they'll be ready to roll again. Bring on the bottle calves.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Holly, Glad to know somebody else has taken their kids to Chicago, Judi and I use to alone too, and then we had quite a few years we took the kids, now we are back going alone, since Isabella can drive and the kids can take care of the cows better than we can. Enjoy while you can, they get real big, real fast. Pretty soon it will be "can't we just stay home and do things around here". But, I guess pretty soon they will be going places and we will be the ones staying home. Bill Graff

  2. Anonymous says:

    Nice story, delayed gratification as a motto - perhaps a bumper sticker "Delayed Gratification, Experience It" - it has potential. Great story, don't tell Nathan but the Lego store a the Mall of America is HUGE including two-story-tall figures (it was the first Lego-only place - and was just remodeled). MOA didn't have American Girl at first, but it does now. So a much shorter drive for us (but no kids - or grandkids - to experience it). Thanks again for sharing, and good luck with those bottle calves next spring. Willie in Minnesota

  3. Anonymous says:

    oh for my kids to learn that delayed of them has it, another HAD it and seems to have lost it! One is too young...the other--can't spend it fast enough! We had a couple guys from our church at the Chicago Farm Bureau meeting. :) Great job Holly! :)