Children,  they grow on you

Family is the best.

The other day I was watching my two young adult sons walking from the shed back towards the house after a day of work.  It was lovely to see them chatting to each other as they finished their workday on the farm.  I am sure they weren’t talking about anything much but it was a nice feeling seeing them get along.

Some families don’t get along.   I hear people saying that they don’t talk to their brother, or sister, or mother or father and it breaks my heart.   I just hope that we have brought our kids up with enough generosity and thoughtfulness and love that they will respect their siblings no matter what life sends them.  

Brothers and sisters will always be there.  Since you first enter the family nucleus they teach you patience and sharing and how to be thoughtful of other peoples feelings.  They know all your secrets.  They were the first people you shared the bathroon with, the first people you holidayed with. In my case we endured hours in the car on the weekends driving to little rural towns where we watched my Dad play cricket. Three of us in the back seat, for the most part annoying the heck out of each other. You can always connect with your siblings when reminiscing about those trips and can always bond over the idiosyncracies of your parents.

Family are a very important support.  Through good times and bad.  I think the quote “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family” means you are lucky to get those people as your family.  I hope that my kids will choose their siblings to be their friends for the rest of their lives.

When running a farming business there can be extra pressure on relationships as the siblings grow up.  Who wants to be a farmer? who gets the farm?  Who might want to be a farmer but leaves to make their own way, because they know there can only be one person taking over the business.  I have seen this cause rifts, anxiety and sometimes siblings just drift apart. As our children get older that is foremost on my mind. I want to make sure the farming business doesn’t affect them as friends.

The inheritance of a farming business can be tricky. We are trying to keep all our four children involved; with lots of communication, discussions at the dinner table and eventually they will be at the business meetings. They know that they are part of our business whether they are here on the farm, involved with the day to day running or off pursuing their career in the ‘big city’.  All of our children know they will be involved and supported in the future, the best way we can.

I am lucky to have one brother and one sister, both whom I love and respect and actually like to spend time with socially.  Mind you it has taken a few years for me to realise that they are very important to me.  It wasn’t that we never got along, more the fact that we didn’t realise how much we liked each other and we all just click. My sister and I have many things in common, we both love Yoga to name just one interest. My brother and I both have a love of the sea, surfing and swimming. Unfortunately I live about three hours travel away from both my brother and my sister but we see each other as much as possible. I am grateful for any time we get together. I am blessed to have such a beautiful family.  It will bring me joy seeing my kids liking their siblings company as much as I like mine.

The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, lies in its loyalty to each other.” – Mario Puzo

Boarding School

Sport at boarding school

It has been a week since we have had our youngest son home from boarding school. He was home for school holidays. We get to hang out with him for two whole weeks. It is always nice to have him home as he likes everything I cook him and he enjoys doing things with us. I am sure this would be different for any other normal 15 year old boy who doesn’t go away to boarding school.

As they all did, while away at boarding school, when they come home they appreciated their family, their home cooked meals and their freedom on the farm. And from my experience over the years I am certain that when they get back to school they are happy to be there with their mates, doing things with them 24/7. Some holidays we go away and they love that but they also appreciate just being at home in their own bed.

We are lucky we are only three hours drive away from the city where they are schooled. We are also lucky to have the technology of mobile phones so we can keep in contact with our kids at any time we like. Unlike the old days when ‘handsome farmer husband,’ was away at school. Once a week, they had to line up to ring their parents from a big old black phone that was stuck on the wall and letters were the regular way of communication. If they were lucky they would see their parents through the school term, but more often than not it would be the end of term when their parents came to collect them that they finally saw them.

All of our children went to boarding school. It was something I thought was important, even though I never attended one myself. I had to argue my case strongly and would bring it up regularly when the kids were young. It was a much discussed subject while driving to the big city with my ‘handsome farmer husband’. Even though he went away for schooling himself, he wasnt sure about it being possible. Obviously cost was a big factor and we had to send four of them. We did have to make some sacrifices in the early days.

I know he knew well the benefits, because during his 4 years at boarding school he made long lasting friends from far and wide, his education improved along with his confidence and and back in those days he had lots of fun experiences. There are many stories he tells about his time there. Many will stay untold until all the children are actually finished school, just in case they want to follow his example.

With hindsight, my children are not exactly the same personalities as their father and so I should not have presumed they would all be fine like he was. I was so confident that it would be good for them all to learn some independence away from their mother, who by the way is a pushover and does way too much for them still.

It was a learning experience for all of us. Our eldest probably had it tougher, being the first cab off the rank, but the youngest was like a duck to water. Every child gained something important from their time away. They are all confident, independant people. We now have three who have finished their Year 12 successfully and since finishing boarding school none of them have looked back.

For two years we only had our youngest child at home. Three at boarding school and one at home. It was very peaceful and there were no arguments over who was doing what jobs around the house. We also had plenty of hot water and the grocery bill was very low.

Now we are back to three at home and one away and it is a very different story. With three big (sort of adult) children home it is interesting. We have a big house, but sometimes its not big enough. We have a big hot water service but sometimes, not big enough. We have a reasonable size fridge but not big enough and the list goes on.

Recently there have been many discussions about the length of peoples showers, why they are always in their rooms and who unpacked the dishwasher last, who cooked last, who fed the cats and the chooks, brought the wood over, who did or didn’t put the rubbish out, who didn’t flush the toilet or put the toilet seat down and the list goes on.

We are teaching them to cook so they can at least feed themselves once they leave the nest. It has been challenging but fun. Everyone cooks once a week. The meal gets a rating out of 10. It is rated on taste and appearance and we try some new recipes along the way. Cooking dinner also entails the clean up and tidy the kitchen and pack and put on the dishwasher as well. ‘Number one son’ is very clever as he tries to pick a Friday night to cook, this is very often the night he is out with his mates. Generally everyone has a go, without too much complaining.

I am grateful to have them home for as long as I can. It is lovely to see my boys walking back from the shed chatting to each other after a day at work or hearing my daughter laughing with her big brother while they are cleaning their teeth at night. Sometimes they even help each other cook. I will make the most of those little things, store them in my memory bank. Soon they will be out of our house, back out into the world, independant young adults. Then before we know it ‘number four’ will be home from boarding school. The countdown is on.

The beginning. I met my cute farmer boy

Back to the beginning. A long summer holiday, I met a farmer and fell in love.

I was 16 years old when I completed year 12.  I finished the school year with no intention of studying in the future. I was looking forward to the summer.   My parents and my younger sister and brother had just moved from our family owned pear orchard in the Adelaide Hills to a little coastal town on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia.  My family and I had been holidaying at this spot for 6 years, so I knew the place well. It was an isolated little place, with farming families who had lived there for generations. The population was less than 100 people.  It had a town hall, a primary school, a cricket oval, a croquet court and 2 little shops.  It was surrounded by farming land and kilometres of untouched, stunning  beaches.  I loved it.

I planned on staying with mum and dad for the whole of summer, about eight weeks, so I could hang out with my friends and family and decide what my future held.  The summer stretched out luxuriously in front of me.   I was excited.

Looking back, that summer was the best time of my life.  It was hot and sunny every day.  (That is what I remember).   I had no responsibilities as my dad and mum were looking after me, with mum cooking and washing my clothes.  I didn’t have to go to work, school was done.  I had a car to drive.  There were plenty of friends to hang out with and adventures to be had.   My hardest decision each day was which beach had the best surf.

I had adopted my dad’s beat up old blue 1970 XY Ford station wagon.  It was solid, never missed a beat with three on the tree and a good sound system. I would drive the dirt roads with my windows down and music up loud. Sometimes my little sister was riding shotgun. I was loving life. When I look back now I like to think I knew how lucky I was and that I appreciated the sheer freedom, but I probably didn’t.

It was on one of my many trips from the beach to the shop to get food that I saw this cute guy.  He was standing by a gate in a paddock.  I clearly remember what he was wearing.  He had a blue and white striped jumper, very short shorts and work boots.  Very interesting.   I thought I knew all the locals but hadn’t seen this guy around.  For a few days afterwards I drove past that paddock more times than I needed hoping to catch another glimpse of him but it was not to be. I really wanted to know who he was.  I knew a few people in the area but I was embarrassed to ask anyone. There are no secrets in a small country town and I didn’t want everyone knowing I was interested in a boy. I did eventually ask.  After that it wasn’t long before I had everyone of my friends telling me stories about the “cute farmer boy” who was home to live and work the farm with his dad and brother.  For the last four years he had been at boarding school in the city.  He was cute and I was curious.

So, yes, eventually the ‘cute farmer boy’ and I did get together.  His neighbour and best friend from primary school told him I liked him and then he helped organise us to meet each other.  Yep, the good old days.   It was hard work trying to find out if you liked each other in the days of no mobile phones.  You couldn’t message to meet up or chat on snapchat.   You had to sit in your living room or kitchen to use the phone, which was firmly attached to the wall. You got to talk to your boy friend in front of all the family.  The ‘cute farmer boy’ had to come to my house and meet my parents so that he could drive me to the next town to see a movie in the town hall.

We dated, yes very old fashioned. We talked on the phone for hours, yes very old fashioned and yes the ‘cute farmer boy’ was eventually, officially, my boyfriend.   I clearly remember being at a party at his house when his parents were away. He gave me a ‘beer bottle top’ ring.  We were in his kitchen when he put it on my finger.  It was kind of awkward but cute.  We were only 17, both too young to be thinking of anything serious, but looking back I think we both knew.   The intention was there.   I still have that bottle top.  My ‘gorgeous farmer husband’ probably doesn’t even remember it, but I do.

Thinking about that summer I know I was very fortunate to have my “summer holiday”.  My parents weren’t rich enough to support me long term, but seemed happy enough to look after me for a while. I made my bed and helped mum out around the house but I wasn’t pressured to get a job, to play any sport, to volunteer or to study. I felt no judgement. I felt like I was allowed to have the last 8 weeks of my childhood without any expectations. It was a summer of freedom and joy.

Unlike the children of today and very much unlike our eldest 21 year old son and our 19 year old twins. They didn’t have the choice of a “summer holiday”. They had been away in the city at school and once they finished Year 12 they came home to the farm for harvest. All of them had jobs, either off the farm or with us. All of them worked every day for most of the summer. They did not have the freedom to go to the beach when it was a perfect surf day. So that makes me wonder, do our teenagers and children have too many responsibilities at an early age? Do they get to have a childhood? Do they even know the freedom that I had? Probably not and I think that is a bit sad. Do we expect too much from them, or not enough?

It worked for me. I will always be very grateful for my “summer holiday” because I met my gorgeous farmer husband.