Sometimes even good plans backfire on you.
Our children are very active. Our two oldest have straight As so far in school, and our youngest boy greets his daycare educational assignments with enthusiasm. They all would rather play outside than watch television, and they're always excited about fishing trips or other outdoor excursions.
But Jamie and I noticed that they were starting to hear the siren song of cell phones and portable computers.
At first it seemed like a convenient distraction. They could play a game on the cell phone when we had to drag them to some after hours work assignment without causing disruptions. Ipads kept them quiet on long road trips.
We started getting concerned when they started wanting to spend more time with these distractions that once seemed harmless.
First they started fighting over them. Then I deleted the games from my phone forever when they were begging to play them when I took them with me to cut some firewood. Normally they’d be playing in the field and eagerly helping load the wood in the truck once I finished using the chainsaw. This time they were wanting to sit in the truck and play on the phone and arguing about whose turn it was to play.
What was I thinking? I shared my concerns with Jamie when I got home, and she agreed that it was time to put a stop to this before it got out of hand.
The protests were predictable, but short-lived because we made an extra effort to highlight activities we preferred. We focused on outdoor activities, and we made sure they had books to read when we had to drag them to work-related activities they didn’t find interesting. If they wanted to play their video games at night after they finished their homework, they had to earn it through good behavior and doing their choirs without complaining.
We also began focusing on the joys of country life. I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything. Growing up in the country on my family’s cattle farm taught me to enjoy hard work, and how to have fun in nature. When I was in school we spent the Christmas holidays hunting on the family land, and when I began working as an adult I started using as many vacation days as possible to do the same thing.
I began sharing these memories as often as possible, and Jamie did the same thing about her childhood. It was going quite well until James came home from school one day and informed us that he wanted a pig for Christmas.
What? A pig?
This was quite a shock for two parents who can barely give their dog the attention it deserves after keeping up with three kids and demanding jobs.
Surely this would pass.
But on Saturday we visited the Antique Days festival, and our last stop was the petting zoo. It was there that James began feeding a small pig, and before we knew it he had it out of the cage carrying it around. Before long James was sitting on a hay bale with the pig sound asleep in his lap, and people were calling him the “pig whisperer.”
“I told you I wanted a pig for Christmas,” James said.
I looked to Rob Cotten, who was manning the petting zoo with his family to intervene.
Rob, who I’ve known since childhood, instead turned out to be a perfect candidate for pig salesman of the year. He began telling us how his daughter had raised a pig that could use a litter box in the house and be walked on a leash. He started talking about how easy they are to feed, and how they won’t get too big if you don’t get carried away with feeding them. He even promised that he could find us a great deal on a pig in time for Christmas.
Even though I was impressed with Rob’s sales pitch, I’m thinking to myself the whole time that the last thing we need is another mouth to feed or some additional responsibilities.
I can see that Jamie is thinking the same thing. We have the ability to communicate a thousand words with a single glance, and I was having no trouble reading her signals.
But at the same time I could see her looking down at those puppy dog eyes of her son that were sending an unspoken message of their own.
He really wants a pig.
Jamie’s the toughest woman I know, but she has a serious soft spot for her little boys. She insists that I’m an equal pushover when it comes to our little girl.
And so it won’t surprise me if one of the packages under the Christmas tree is squeaking this year.
Is it wrong that I’m wondering if maybe there’s a pig-related computer game that would seem just as good?