If you've raised a teenager and both you and the kid survived, congratulations! We're on our fourth, and God saved the biggest challenge for last! "Teenageitis" has set in. This word won't pass the spell check in any software program because I just made it up. But trust me, it's real!
Allison, Ashley, Daniel – they all showed hogs for 10 years. Since Allison, 27, is about to graduate with her doctorate degree in Food Science at the University of Georgia, it's been a 17-year trek that hopefully taught each one of them something. It certainly taught me and their mother a lot.
Each one learned something different:
Allison learned the payoff for responsibility; Ashley learned you can't say you're helping every night, then get panicked when you realize a red sow has black-and-white pigs. (Side note: she would have been OK if the pigs weren't already three weeks old. Obviously, she was AWOL from the sow barn… for three weeks, at least!); Daniel learned early on that you don't make one-and-a-half-swipes across the pig pen with the shovel, go to the house and tell dad you cleaned the pen.
But for each of them, it all led to them becoming responsible, functioning adults. That was the game plan all along … they just didn't know it.
Then there is Kayla, our 18-year old. She will get there, but certainly in her own way and her own time. An accomplished sheep showman, although she hates sheep, winner of the county Master Showmanship contest in 2012, suddenly getting ready to compete in the fair queen pageant seems to rank above walking pigs and setting up sheep. When it gets so bad that either Carla or I aren't talking to her, the other one becomes the intermediary. The goal is to survive this week.
She may win a few ribbons this week, she may not. No doubt she'll drive us nuts wanting to do things other than take care of her animals.
When it's all said and done, years from now, I'm sure we'll look back and say Kayla learned lessons too, and in her own way, gained from it. It's not quite so obvious right now.
What have her mother and I learned? That we've invested a lot of time and money in animals and buildings and feed. (Especially feed … fancy feed.) In the final analysis it's not the ribbons the kids won or didn't win, it's the growth in the kids that makes it worth it. They know the value of hard work, and even though our farm is small, they have the values common in farm kids – integrity, honesty, common sense and a good work ethic. Or at least they ALL will!
Kayla battled a tough disease and Mayo Clinic helped put her on the road to recovery last fall. I recently told my good friend, Dennis Carnahan, Vincennes, that even Mayo Clinic doesn't have a cure for teenageitis.
"No, but God does – prayer will work," he says.
He's 100% right. Prayer, love, patience and time are the only possible cures for teenageitis!