"Daddy, can we get sheep?"
My crochet hook slowed for a moment. This should be interesting...
"No, son, I'm sorry but we're not getting sheep."
"We don't have enough land for them. Sheep need lots of grass."
"But we've got grass. Isn't it enough for one sheep?"
"One sheep would get lonely."
"How about two? Can't we have just two?"
It was a quiet Sunday afternoon. I was curled up in my corner of the couch near the woodstove, working on yet another doily, while Eric sat in the recliner across the room, peeling garlic. What didn't get planted or put in the freezer was finally being dehydrated in the oven and ground into garlic powder. He had put the documentary "Farmaggedon" on to listen to as he worked, and our son had walked in the room as a woman was sharing the sad story of her sheep being confiscated and destroyed by the powers that be. Ben watched for a minute, trying to process in his young mind why the nice lady didn't get to keep her sheep, and then asked his father if we could get some to raise ourselves.
There's been a change in my son the past several months, and it's not a subtle one. Maybe it's because when he asked why Daddy was leaving for work instead of simply going outside like he had been, I told him honestly that it was because we just weren't making enough money from our little farm. Maybe it's because he has finally grown past the "I'm the center of the universe" childishness and into the realization that there is a bigger world around him, one that operates on rules and work and cause and effect. A place where "I want that..." is no longer meeting instant gratification, but is now bumping up against the reality of "...then you must do this to get what you want." Or perhaps we have simply reached that critical time when I as the parent am now realizing that all three of our younger children are no longer calling out "Me too! Me too! I want to help!" in a toddler-esque desire of clinging to Mommy and Daddy, but because they genuinely want to be involved in what we do. For all the time and patient effort that Eric and I have given to discussing with all of them what we believe it means to be a family that works together, it's a powerful feeling to realize that our earnest words have taken root in the soil of our children's hearts. The day I heard our seven-year-old Benjamin say, "I want to do dirty work, too..." was the day I heard the voice of the man our son will become. And the day I saw all five children choose to help Daddy in the garden is the day I saw the future of our little family farm.
Someday, someone I've not yet met will say, "My grandparents started this farm with three acres and a dream and I'm proud to be following in their footsteps..." and they'll be talking about me and Eric.
"I'm sorry, son, but we're just not getting any sheep. But maybe, if your mom agrees, we'll get some turkeys this year. Does that sound okay?"
"Turkeys?" Ben pondered this for a moment. "Well.....okay. We can have turkeys."
"Thanks, Ben, I'm glad you approve."
"Can I watch the rest of the movie with you, Daddy?"
Ben climbed into the recliner with his father, anxious to watch more of the movie about farmers.