When I moved out, my large family did some much needed rearranging. Now when I come in to visit I share a room with my three year old brother, Daniel.
It is not uncommon for me to wake up with an assortment of hot wheels cars spread out across my bed.
Nor is it a shock to hear my car alarm blaring only to find Daniel grinning sheepishly with my keys in his hands.
The one that takes the cake has to be when he decides to wake me up at 6 a.m. and ask to play games on my iPhone.
While he’s not the greatest roommate, I can’t help but love the time I get to spend with him.
I especially love when we he comes along with us to do farm chores.
Every time someone visits our house, Daniel spends the first 10 minutes of their visit rattling off stories about feeding the cows, checking the pigs or riding in Daddy’s “big truck.”
Farm chores are his favorite pastime.
When he gets in trouble he loses the privilege of feeding the pigs! For his birthday, my parents even got him his own rubber boots and work jacket. He was ecstatic!
To Daniel and farm kids across the country, the family farm is a favorite playground and a first classroom.
I remember going “check the cows” with my dad when I was little and learning about the different beef breeds and how to put up polywire fences.
As the youngest in the family, Daniel has 6 teachers!
While some of us work the cattle, someone will always stand back and watch with Daniel to explain what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
I am amazed that he understands so much of what we’re doing.
He is always quick to remind me that I need to “be nice” to the pigs and “don’t hit” them and he always tries to help Daddy call the calves up when we go to feed.
My favorite example was when we gave a vaccination to a litter of pigs in October.
Initally, Daniel was startled when the pigs began to squeal.
We explained to him that a shot only hurt the pigs for a few minutes but it would keep them from being sick which would hurt much worse.
While we finished vaccinating, Daniel walked around the pen telling the pigs,
“You not gonna get sick piggy.”
It was the most adorable thing I had ever seen!
Daniel hasn’t yet realized that his childhood is not the norm. In his mind, all toddlers have baby pigs at home to play with.
Eventually, he’ll have to adjust to being in a classroom with few other farm kids.
At some point, he’ll have to defend the way his family raises livestock to people who don’t want to understand.
Some day he’ll have to decide whether or not he wants to take on the challenges of farming as an adult.
But those decisions are years away.
For now, he’ll keep living in his own little piece of paradise and I’ll keep watching him grow up the best way possible…on a family farm.