Thoughts from a County Fair
Sometimes the lessons we, as parents, want to teach our kids are the ones we’re still trying to master ourselves. As I started this post, I intended to talk about our family’s showing and fair season, and how we juggle several kids and animals throughout the summer. However, as I reflected on the memories from our fair week, I kept coming back to a lesson I learned—or rather relearned.
As show day started, one particular species judge lacked professionalism in the ring, both working with the kids and evaluating the livestock. I wasn’t the only parent to notice because as the show went on, more and more comments were being made ring side. Now, I am not one to make a scene, confront a judge or superintendent. But just as disrespectful, I may make comments under my breath to other parents. I’m not proud to admit that, but hindsight is 20/20. I tried to keep my disbelief to myself, but as my mom would say, “You wear your emotions on your sleeve.” Even before my daughter entered the ring, I was worked up and trying not to throw my hands in the air as the judge tried to point out to the kids showing in the market classes all the things they were doing wrong in exhibiting their animals. While this judge was truly an example of unprofessionalism, it didn’t really matter. Life lessons here, people.
A couple days later as others were still bringing up the subject, I really had a moment of clarity. We are trying to teach our kids to be good sports and to respect the judge’s opinion because they were hired to do a job, regardless of our opinion of it. Sure, we’ve been at shows and didn’t agree with the judge’s placings, but haven’t let it ruffle us. This time was different because the one called on to do a job seemed inadequate for the task at hand. But, as I came to realize after mulling it over, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of life. It’s one person’s opinion on one day. And we must give them our respect because that is what our kids need to see and learn.
Our kids work really hard all summer, as do other kids. For ours, they have many opportunities to show, but for some kids, the county fair is their one shot—the culmination of a summer of work. It was frustrating to watch many of them not get a fair shake at it. But, again, life lessons. Life isn’t fair. And really, for some of those kids, just being in the ring with their animal was success enough for them. Fortunately, our daughter was way more concerned with her animal and what she was doing with it. She may have been switched to a lower placing at the end of the class, but she handled it with grace. I know she didn’t understand why, but she accepted the result without complaint. She was the example to me. I also have to remember not winning doesn’t negate all the knowledge gained, all the family time spent in the barn together, and all the hard work put into the project.
Sure, we love to win. Who doesn’t? I enjoyed some success as a youth in 4-H, and our kids have done their fair share of winning, too. But, what do I remember most from my growing up years? It’s not the trophies and ribbons. They just end up collecting dust. The dust has even settled on our girls’ awards from this year; granted, we live in the country, so dust settles quickly around here. And yes, they appreciate the recognition, but what we remember and the reason we show, is the memories we make, the friendships that develop, and the relationships we build. Those truly are the reasons we put in all the hard work, sweat and long hours. Fair week is especially grueling as you basically run on adrenaline with early mornings and late nights for a week straight.
In this world where everyone seems to be striving for perfection, sometimes it’s worth stopping to evaluate ourselves. I have to humble myself enough to know when I have let competition get in the way of what’s most important to our family. Thankfully, maybe we are doing something right because by the end of the fair, our kids were reminiscing about how much fun it was to show, how sad they were the week was over, what they did with their friends, and what they were looking forward to next year.
Sometimes the lessons we are trying to teach our kids are the ones we still are learning ourselves. I guess that’s why they call them life lessons—life-long learning lessons.
Cover Photo: Julie Tomascik