For the past few weeks, my feeds have been full of posts from exhausted and overwhelmed stock show moms in the midst of their county and state fairs.
They’re sharing the good, the bad and the messy from their weeks.
The late nights, the blue ribbons, the barn meals, the laundry piles and the adventure that is parenting an exhausted kid who ate a funnel cake for supper.
With each post I read, this strange feeling is building up in my chest. Its a mix of excited anticipation and downright fear.
I just joined their ranks.
I’m now a stock show mom.
My daughter participated in her first novice showmanship classes this summer and loved every second of them. She and her uncle are already planning the Durocs he’s going to raise for her as soon as she’s old enough to tag in her own pigs.
As much as I’m looking forward to her experiencing all the wonderful things that come from showing livestock, I’m pretty nervous about being a full fledged show mom.
So while everyone else has been watching the livestock in the ring, I’ve been watching the veteran show moms standing ringside. I’ve seen what most people don’t take the time to notice.
I see you stock show mom, when no one else is looking.
I see you making ham sandwiches on top of the tack box at 8 a.m. Then I see you making another round at noon. And if the show runs long enough you’ll be pulling another meal or two out of that cooler before its all said and done.
Like the loaves and the fish, you always have enough to feed your kids and all of their friends.
You’re the matriarch of the tack pen and throughout fair week you’ll make those folding chairs, coolers and feed sacks serve half a dozen different purposes.
Its the playroom for the toddlers and the hangout for the tweens.
A therapist’s office, as you counsel a teen through a breakup.
Its a study hall, while you explain long division to a 4-Her.
A coffee shop, where friendships forged in this same barn years ago are rekindled over rice krispie treats and cokes and the retelling of stories.
But your work extends far beyond the tack pen.
I see you sitting on a gate, braiding sweaty hair while you give a pre-showmanship pep talk.
I see you quizzing your 9 year old on showmanship questions and reminding your teenager to relax and have fun.
I see you jumping in to help when your kids need it and standing back when you know they need to figure it out for themselves.
I see you pray for patience under your breath when the kids are bickering and the animals aren’t cooperating.
I see you mixing up feed and filling up water buckets.
I see you settling wash rack arguments before they turn into water fights.
I see you with your camera in one hand and a spray bottle in the other. With your pockets full of brushes, towels and granola bars.
I see you dry so many tears for so many reasons. I wonder how often you’re choking back tears of your own.
I see you watch your child lose and hide your heartbreak.
I hear you tell them that showing livestock isn’t all about winning on the way back to the pens, even when you and I both know that your kid probably should have won that class.
I see your joy when your child wins but as soon as they make it out of the ring I hear you remind them to be a humble winner.
I see the smile in your eye as you fight the urge to shout from the rooftops how proud you are that all of their hard work paid off.
But now that I’m part of your club, I’m realizing that when the champion is named and the show is over, your work is only half way done.
No one sees you washing the 15 pairs of dirty jeans that come home from the state fair.
No one sees you giving baths to the kids too young to bathe themselves.
No one knows that at the end of every show day you take a cold shower, because after making sure everyone else is clean there’s just no hot water left.
And after a week of eating from coolers and concession stands, when everyone is dying for a home cooked meal, its you who finds a way to make that happen.
I see you stock show mom. You’re exhausted, physically and emotionally. Your to-do list is a mile long and you’re running on fumes.
No one else may see you, but that doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time.
Your servant heart is changing lives and raising the best kids on earth, one ham sandwich, clean pair of jeans and tack pen pep talk at a time.