Updated: Mar 15, 2019
The facts of life are undeniable when you grow up on a farm or ranch. Musings of a ranch Mom...
(this blog was written several years ago, but it's always a fun share. My teen boys may not appreciated it now, but hey, I am very comfortable being THAT Mom that has no problem embarrassing my kids. Enjoy!)
Reproduction Its THE fact of life. Without it, none of us would be here. And kids that grow up on a ranch see life "as it is created" so to speak. They see the full circle: creation, birth, growth and death. As preschoolers, my kids started to ask questions... LOTS of questions! Sometimes the answers are easy and sometimes they are a bit more difficult. My husband and I, both being "science-y" types, decided it best to be completely honest with our kids about the facts of life, and always use the proper terminology when answering questions.
This was all fine and dandy until they started going to school. Even though we have explained to our kids that they don't have to share EVERYTHING that happens on the ranch, for an excited 5 year old, the mouth filter does not always work.
I remember having some very blunt conversations with teachers that went something like this: "We tested bulls yesterday, so if my son starts talking about semen or testicle size, please re-direct the conversation and think nothing of it." "We AI'd over the weekend, so just in case my son mentions breeding, vulvas or fertilization..." You get the picture. Any other ranch moms out there that can relate?
Colorful Terminology Even though we have taught them the proper scientific terms, sometimes they come up with their own, either out of their own necessity to explain things or they just can't pronounce it correctly. Here are some of my favorite terms that came from the mouths of my babes:
"the goody bag" = the water bag that shows during labor "ha cow" = 3 year old's term for a hot cow, or cow in heat. "china" = where the calf comes out "sumbich" = when a cow is in need of assistance during the birthing process, but she is NOT cooperating! "swimmers" = semen (super fun to view under a microscope with the assistance of a veterinarian) "teaps" = teats or an udder "looks like she's bred" = term for any obviously pregnant woman you see in town
The Miracle of Life
And then we get to my favorite time of year. Calving and lambing. Birth, in all its beauty, is something that these boys have witnessed since they were babies strapped into a pack on my front or back. They know where milk comes from and have witnessed (*Gasp*) "breastfeeding" on a daily basis. BUT...my kids are getting old enough now that they not only know exactly what goes on with the animals, but they are starting to put it together that the same things happen to humans. (EEEK - I hoped they would never make the connection!). Because we have tried to instill the love for life sciences, they examine EVERYTHING. They have recently started asking me to describe their own birth stories in great detail...
"Yes, I had afterbirth too. NO, I did NOT eat it!"
Dealing with Death Unfortunately, there is the sad side to this. Ranch kids not only get to witness the miracle of life, but also the reality of death. Sometimes death is easier to explain - the lamb who was born weak and sickly. He was in pain and it was a relief when we found him not breathing. But other times are more difficult. These boys have seen the devastation that a coyote can do to a group of ewes and lambs. And just this week, I pulled a dead newborn calf out of a ditch. It was the calf of my oldest boy's 4-H cow Rose, who we kept as a late calver, just because she was his. In times like that, death doesn't make sense and you get angry and really, really sad. But I am thankful that because of this, my kids often ponder heaven. They know where they are going, and already have a list of tough questions they are going to ask when they get there!
A Mamma's Worries and Hopes Sometimes I worry about my boys. I worry that they will have a "too scientific" view of life and death. Are they becoming emotionally UN-attached to the whole meaning when they see it day in and day out? But then my fears give way to hope for the future. They will grow up knowing the value of life, whether it is human or animal. They will grow up with knowledge about birth and death and how to handle those situations. I like that I don't have to lie about where the dog "went". They know! I think that they will grow up strong, but with gentle hearts like their Dad. And most of all, I pray that they will grow up knowing that we have a pretty amazing creator, who had perfect intentions with the Facts of Life!