Today was part of a series of junior livestock shows in our area. The Heifer my son shows is one my husband and his dad bred and we have been working with for almost 2 years now. This is "Charm's" second show season, and bless her heart, she is eight months pregnant and tired... I can sympathize.
After two years of prep - twice a day feedings, grooming (The livestock get more hair treatment than I do. That's not an exaggeration!), walking, haying (haying is a verb around here), trimming hooves, breaking ice in the Winter, mucking stalls daily, weekly weigh-ins, and a trip to another pasture for artificial insemination - my son got no more than a collective 45 minutes max today in the arena to show off his 2 years of hard work. He's 11, by-the-way. That's a lot of responsibility for an 11 year old, and most of these kids (including mine) start all this at age 9 or younger.
He got 2nd in his class and despite the many hours and dollars we've poured into this calf, we were all ecstatic about the red ribbon and $15 winnings! I'm talking, tears in my eyes excited. Then, I had to watch him stand in the ring waiting to get picked for premium sale, which was his goal, and not make it. I watched him fight back tears of disappointment as the judge picked the last few and the mom in me was thinking, "This stinks. He works so hard! I'm tired of watching his heart break; I don't know if this is worth it." I swear no one works harder or has more heart than this kid! And he seems to have to work so much harder at everything he does whether it's school or sports... why can't this one thing just come easy for him?
But, we went on. He showed for showmanship and didn't win. But, he walked out of the show ring with his usual grin and said, "Hey. I can't complain about his pick for showmanship. That girl who won did great." And, in that moment right there, I couldn't have been more proud. Not if he'd won the whole show!
The lessons these kids are learning aren't really learned in the show ring. They're learned the rest of the year. We want to teach our kids that "hard work pays off," and I believe it does, but not always in the ways we think or the timeframe we expect. I mean, you don't always get recognized for hard work in real life. In fact, I've found that often the harder you work, the more work you get assigned to you. Sometimes you get recognized and that's nice. Sometimes you get an accolade, an award, a promotion, or a raise. And, man, that feels good! But, if that's your motivation, you're going to be highly disappointed with real life.
You have to be intrinsically motivated to truly be happy with your life's work - no matter what it is. I think to really be successful you have to give it your all no matter if you get a ribbon or not! Sometimes you "get in the ring" to show your stuff and you'll get the first prize! But, sometimes you get second or maybe even last. Sometimes someone else works harder than you, or sometimes it seems downright unfair! Hey, life has it's downright unfair moments! But, you can't let them cause you to throw in the towel. No, you go back and give it your all again. You recognize the hard work, efforts, and gifts of others. You accept defeat graciously and vow to make the necessary changes to try and end up on top next time.
These 4H and FFA kids are learning life lessons every single day in and out of the ring. I've said it before, but I couldn't be more proud that my family is involved in this stock show life. And, I encourage you to support your local youth agriculture programs. I'm here to tell you, these kids are our future leaders!