I talk and write a lot about economics. That’s because, like you, we have some pretty ambitious goals for our operation and like every business, making money is a primary focus of our operation. Yet, if we are completely honest with ourselves, part of the reason we are in the ranching business is the lifestyle, and that it allows us to raise our children the way we want.
Kids grow up so fast. As parents, we want to prepare them to conquer the world, we want to bestow them with all the knowledge we have acquired and help them avoid the mistakes we have made.
Sadly, though, life is too short and as they get older, parents often find themselves spending less and less time with their kids. In the end, you realize that your job is really about giving them enough foundation to make their journey easier than it would have been without your influence.
My kids are nearly out of the proverbial nest. They are asking deep and meaningful questions about their life, and I don’t have the answers for them, but I truly wish I did. I can’t tell them what they should do as a career or how to know whom they should select as their future spouse.
I’m sure every parent feels the same way, but I feel pretty good about the kids we have raised. They are without exception better people than I am, immensely talented, and thankfully have picked up many of their mom’s better traits. I am proud of the people they are becoming, what they have accomplished and the character traits they have acquired.
I have always liked this quote from Earnest Hemingway, who said, “The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice.”
As a proud parent, I think my kids fill those requirements pretty well, plus they all have a strong faith and moral code. As braggadocios as the above might sound, as a parent you are also keenly aware of the mistakes you have made and the character flaws you spend a lot of time praying that your own kids can avoid.
When the Dali Llama was asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said, “Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies never really having lived.”
Life is a challenge that few of us fully meet. When you realize that you can’t prepare your kids for all that they will face, you move to “crisis mode,” and that is where I’m currently at. If I can’t prepare them for everything, what are the things I can do, or share with them?
They are worried about what they want to do in terms of a career, but I know that whatever success they enjoy, if they fail at home, they will be a failure. It is not the outside world’s verdict or accolades that matter as much as what their kids, their spouse and their own mirror reflects back to them that truly matters. Looking back, I think that while these are the three most important areas, they are also the three areas I had the least formal training for and made the most significant mistakes in.
A veteran of a lot of cattle markets and a grizzled ol’ cowboy surprised me the other day when he shared the key to raising good kids. This is what he said: “When you tell them you love them, make sure they know it isn’t habit or just to make conversation. Say it to remind them that they are the best thing that ever happened to you.” I’m thinking that’s pretty good advice.
The good news is the one thing we all know. They are ranch kids so they will be OK, even if there are a few wrecks along the way.
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