Monday, May 24, 2010

Rabbit Tales--Part 1

The season for 4-H arrived with the robins and children and teenagers all around our farming community are  preparing to show their animals come July. For those of you not familiar with 4-H, it looks something like this:

Step 1: decide which animal(s) you want to show. The choices range from poultry to puppies, from hens to horses, from cats to cattle.

Step 2: select the breed and specimen you think will catch the eye of the judges. You find it through friends, word or mouth, or animal registries.

Step 3: bring your animal home to the shelter you’ve prepared ahead of time and begin carefully raising and training it. You measure its food to make sure it meets weight. You handle it so it will behave in the ring or on the judges' table properly.

Step 4: you attempt to keep yourself from falling in love with your animal because your goal is to not bring it back home from the fair. You want to sell it for the most money you can get, which usually means the critter you’ve spent hours on over the last few months will grace someone’s dinner table.

If you did your job right, you'll come home with a nice check in your pocket and several ribbons and medals to add to your scrapbook.

Justice decided last year that he would try his hand at raising rabbits. Actually, he first chose sheep, but (thankfully) that didn’t work out. We bought the pen, the food, and all the supplies. Then we purchased two just-weaned, Polish rabbits. I could make some jokes here, but that would be politically incorrect, so I’ll move on.

Anyway, I saw a parallel between 4-H livestock and parenting. I learned that, in a sense, we follow the same thought process for both endeavors. 

Step 1: decide to have children (as opposed to just being puppy-parents or borrowing your siblings' kids for the day).

Step 2: acquire your specimen. For some of us, ours come through biological means. Others will receive a child through adoption, guardianship, or the foster care system.

Step 3: bring home your child to the shelter you’ve prepared (the nursery). Begin the process of carefully raising and training him/her. You will give your child healthy food so they maintain an optimal weight. You will handle them lovingly and with kindness so they will behave properly. You will train them so that some day when they stand before the Judge, they will meet His scrutiny with flying colors.

Step 4: you attempt to keep yourself separated enough to keep from having your heart totally torn out when they are gone. You will not succeed, but you will still attempt to give them freedom and independence, because you know that goes with Step 3—it’s what they need to be healthy. Your goal is to come back from the fair (graduation or college or the wedding) without them. You won’t get any money—in fact you’ll be broke. And thankfully, they won’t become someone’s dinner. However, if you do your job correctly, they will grace others with their presence and you will reap the blessing of having taken a 7-pound bundle of need and helped turn him/her into a full-grown, contributing citizen.

Oh, yeah, and if you’re really fortunate, you’ll also get some ribbons and medals for all your hard work and effort. They will be a little while in coming, but you’ll recognize them because they’ll call you “Grandma” or “Grandpa”.

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