4-H Countdown

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

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