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Working cattle

Perfect dad? I am not. Luckily, growing up on the ranch offsets my shortcomings

Being a dad is tough. But growing up on a ranch often means that the ranch can help overcome the mistakes that dads too often make.

I think the only job tougher than being a dad is being a mom, but that isn’t a fair comparison, because moms are so much better prepared for the job.

I ran into an old friend in the airport the other day and as is usually the case, we got around to asking about each other’s family and kids. We are both in that stage of life where our kids are preparing to go to college and are spreading their wings. So, of course, we had to ask where they were going to school, what they were majoring in and what they were planning to do with their lives.

My friend said a couple of things that were insightful. He didn’t know if his kids had any desire to return to the operation. “They have seen the hours and the work, and all the anxiety that comes with it. I don’t think I did a great job of showing them the joy and fun associated with this life.” 

I could have said the same thing, and I understand his mixed emotions. One part wants his kids to return to continue the journey he has started, the other part just wants them to be happy and secretly wishes they would choose a more lucrative path.

For us as dads, the die is already cast. Just like my friend, we admit that we probably haven’t done the best job of showing our kids the fun and joy of agriculture, but all we really want now is for them to find their purpose and passion.

What he said next, though, was thought provoking. “The kids may not come back to the ranch, but the ranch gave them the foundation to spread their wings and succeed.”

More importantly, he confessed that while he may have failed at showing his kids the joy and opportunities with ranching, he had probably failed even more mightily at being the spiritual leader of his home and showing them how important their relationship with God is to having a meaningful life. 

Yet, he said ranching bailed him out. There is something about being immersed and surrounded by God’s creations that just leave you in awe. It’s hard to watch a sunrise while horseback in the middle of a mountain meadow, or to sit gazing up at the stars from the top of a hay stack with all the sounds of the birds and animals, and not simultaneously understand your insignificance while being in awe of His magnificence.

He went on to say that “Living on a ranch let my kids grow up with a sense of wonder in their hearts. They all have a personal relationship with God, in part because they have seen His greatness and felt His presence in the solitude of his creation. My kids may have turned out just as good, and be positioned to change the world for the better, if they had grown up in the city rather than the ranch, but I would have had to be a much better dad and leader than I was.”

I couldn’t help but agree with him. I think both of us would love to have one, two or all three of our kids want to return to the ranch, but as the conversation came to an end so we could catch our planes, we just agreed to pray that they find the passion and purpose that is theirs; that we might do a better job of showing them the awe that is associated with ranching and not just the struggles. And that we might be better spiritual leaders at home.

It’s amazing, but the love of a great mom and the power of this way of life can go a long way to cover up the mistakes of a dad, and for that we are truly grateful.

TAGS: Ranching
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