My whole body hurts. Our bank account is busted. Also, my sinuses are crazy from barn dust, my head hurts from 2 days of adrenaline spikes, there are wood chips all over our house and vehicles, our shoes smell like livestock poo, and I'm not sure if there's enough detergent in the world to wash the barn smell from our clothes. I'm sitting in my living room, listening to jean buttons clank in the dryer, perusing my phone pictures, and feeling emotional. And, I'm ready to do it all again next week. You're thinking I'm crazy, right?
What angle to write from? That's been my question since last night. I've written about livestock showing and the way it prepares kids for life. I could go on and on about that. And, last night at our county show was a great example. I could write about these kids' knowledge of responsibility, their familiarity with disappointment, their determination, their work ethics... I could reiterate how I sort of hated this world (and, trust me, it is its own little world!) at first, but have grown to love it. But, as I've contemplated and looked at my pictures and social media posts, I've discovered just how much showing really means to me.
My daughter competed at our County livestock show for the 7th time last night. She drove both her pigs for a long time and won a 5th and 3rd place. She showed for premium sale twice. We knew the first time was a long shot, but after her 3rd place in a class that produced a breed champion, we had high hopes. But, she didn't make it and I watched her keep her hog walking around the arena for so long. It was tired and breaking down. It kept going to the corners of the ring to try to quit and every time my determined daughter fought to get it back in front of the judge. She never quit.
Truth? I wanted her to quit. I hate to admit that. The mom in me was watching her, tears welling in my eyes, and I just thought, "Baby, it's over. Just stand in the corner and let that pig rest." I could read her frustration and when she was FINALLY chosen as 4th alternate, and they got her pig over to the side where it collapsed from exhaustion, I saw the tears she was fighting from all the way in the stands. I had to get to her! But, getting to her meant getting down stairs and going through a maze of pig panels. Her dad was down in the arena, but he had to fight the maze, too.
By the time we got to her there were already people surrounding her. People who care about her and were watching her fight in that ring with almost the same concern I was. I recalled last year when I watched one of the senior girls have the same experience and how anguished I felt for her as I watched her. I also thought about how excited I was for a boy who was having an awesome show his senior year this year, after a not-so-great year last year. I was genuinely so happy for him, watching him win. And, it occurs to me that we are so incredibly blessed to have this huge group of families we show with who have genuine concern for our kids. Sure, in some respects we are competing against one another, but we are also all helping raise each other's kids.
We finally got my daughter's poor worn-out pig back to the pen, and we geared up for the showmanship competition. She went right back in the ring and showed her other pig with so much determination and she WON! After 7 long years, she finally got a showmanship buckle! It was an amazing moment. But, do you want to know the most amazing part? The other parents who sincerely congratulated her, were genuinely happy for her, and told her how much she deserved it. These are parents who's kids were in the ring, competing for the same award!
We are a little village of show moms and dads. We come together to raise money, coordinate to feed the kids on show day, help each other haul animals and equipment, share tips, commiserate on losses, share the joy of winning, and help keep up with the younger siblings. We surround other people's children with help and encouragement when they need it. We build them up, we hold them to the highest standard, and we don't let them quit. How many times yesterday did I look up in the stands to see one or more of my kids sitting by another show parent? How many times did I hear another parent say, "Great job!" To my child?
We left the barn late last night. It was cold and anywhere I turned I saw weary faces. Weary faces with a smile and encouragement to offer. The dads still there helped the kids load the last bit of equipment and the animals that needed to be hauled back to the school. There was light teasing here and there, serious conversations about work still to be done, and I just sat back and took it all in. I've come full circle. I love this stock show life now. I love these people. There is no other village I'd rather have raising my children with me. Even if we ARE raising them in a barn!