Our family is on the countdown to the first year our firstborn child will join 4-H and enter the county fair with animals. For a while now it’s been all, Mom, only three years until I can be in 4-H. And, Mom, two years from now we’ll be camping out at the fair.
I love 4-H. I was a pro 4-Her. I was born into a 4-H family as a tagalong kid; I followed my older sibs to my first fair at two months old and charged on until the summer I turned 18.
The summer I turned 19, when I had officially aged out of the program, I cried and cried. I missed 4-H. I missed being in the fair. After a short lifetime of summers devoted to prep for the 4-H fair, I was pretty much lost without it.
I did survive that life transition, and most of the successive life transitions that forced me to transform into an adult. Now I’m a mama of four future 4-Hers.
I’ve always assumed we’ll be a 4-H family. And my husband — a champion livestock judge in his heyday — has as well.
But as the precious, blissful years of young childhood pass so quickly for our firstborn, I have found myself dragging my feet. The year he turns 9 will be his first year in 4-H, and he’s pushing to join the Cloverbuds (junior 4-Hers) next year. He can’t wait to be a big kid. I am the reluctant one. It’s not that I don’t think 4-H is a fantastic program. It’s not that I don’t look forward to walking with my children through all the opportunities and experiences ahead of us. It’s just that I fear getting caught in the whirlwind of the adolescent years, running from baseball practice to guitar lessons to the 4-H meeting.
(I am also suspicious that our kids being in 4-H is going to be a ton of work for me and my husband. And I’m a little bit afraid that I’ll turn out to be the stereotypical monstrous 4-H mom.)
But the passage of time is inevitable, and though I’ve guarded our little family against busy-ness as long as possible, I can feel us slipping, slipping, slipping now, ever toward the center of the adolescent-activities tornado that will rule our lives for, I’m guessing, the next couple decades.
I can remain in denial about my kids growing up. I can be a grouch about it. Or I can stock up on hairspray, safety pins, starch, hoof polish, and lipstick and jump feet-first… right behind our firstborn. He’s going with or without me.
To that end, I helped him get his feet wet this year. We entered some of his art in the open show at the Rosebud-Treasure County Fair…
… And look what happened:
He was named best of class! And earned a $3 premium!
He is officially hooked.
And I am (almost) officially a camper-packing, finger-crossing, pig-pushing, concessions-stand-hollering, flip-flop-showering 4-H mom.
© Tam Blake