On The Ranch

Oh, Mother.

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I wrote this post years ago, and honestly, it’s so much funnier now that I’m a mom. Is it okay to call yourself funny in retrospect? I hope so, because I’m doing it. No shame in my game.

The heifers have started calving, and it makes me miss our days of being knee-deep in calves for months when we worked for registered ranches (commercial ranches typically aren’t as hands-on, for a variety of reasons), but then I remember how much work that was and how exhausted we were and how much of our diets consisted of snacks and sweet tea and I think I’ll stick with my fond reminiscences. As Bert says, it’s easier to get up in the night to feed a human baby than to go check calves because at least you get to stay inside and don’t have to get out of your pajamas.

Which is where I laugh at him, because he’d always get fully dressed to go check and I’d just throw my coveralls over my jammies and call it good. Including one time when I was wearing footy pajamas which almost resulted in an embarrassing bathroom situation but don’t worry, it got, ah, taken care of.

Being around so many bovine mothers has made me realize they’re similar to human mothers in that while each one is, of course, unique, every mother can be loosely grouped into a category based on her parenting style.

The Helicopter Mother is the sort that won’t leave. Ever. You’ve seen her–that mom at the soccer game/swim meet/dance class that the ref/coach/teacher has to keep chasing off the field/pool deck/floor. She wears fanny packs and has a tote bag full of band-aids, kleenex and medical supplies a triage nurse would envy. Also a change of clothes, in case things get wild. She does Junior’s homework, plans all his extra-curriculars, and stays home whenever she hires a babysitter to supervise the babysitter supervising her child. In bovine form, this mother will hardly get out of Junior’s face long enough to let him nurse, much less let him walk somewhere. She’s mastered the art of bellering hysterically and never taking her eyes off of you or her calf while walking backwards. It’s hard to tag her calf because she won’t leave enough space between Junior’s head and her own for you to get a tag in edgewise. She’s annoying, but you deal with her because she’s a good mother, mostly–besides her child never being able to socialize properly due to her overbearing hovering.

The “You’re On Your Own” Mother is the sort who–by laziness or by design–lets her child learn for itself and just watches when it does something stupid. Every now and then, she’ll say (or moo) some instructions or advice, like “A little to the left, Ashley,” or “Watch out for that hole, Rutherford,” or “Don’t fall of the edge of the bridge, Harriet, I won’t come in to get you,” but she usually just stays involved in whatever activity she was involved in when Junior went for his adventure, which is usually eating. This mom’s alright–she’ll usually intervene before little Cletus does something really dumb.
The Satellite Mother is a mother we all know. She’s seems rather uninvolved and distant, perhaps even neglectful at times. However, her children are impeccably groomed and always have the best lunches. She attends all of their recitals, concerts and games, but in a mysterious, back-of-the-room sort of way, and lets the other mothers be front and center. Until, of course, little Timothy is unfairly tackled or little Prunella is pushed during the ballet recital, and then her presence becomes immediately obvious and the offender wonders where in the world she was but vows never to mess with her kid again. In cow form, this mother will never be near her calf, as far as you can tell, but you know they must have some sort of interaction because the calf is fat and healthy. But, she somehow knows where it is at.all.times, and will come racing at a dead run if you get anywhere near the little pipsqueak, bellering and carrying on, making you jump back with your hands up (“I swear I was just checking on him!”) and get the heck out of there.

The Overbearing Mother is similar to a Helicopter Mother, but not quite as protective and well-meaning as, well, overbearing. A Helicopter type will usually let Junior walk in the direction he chooses (as long as he can navigate around her ever-present hovering) and lets him pick his own place to nap in the straw (as long as it IS on the straw–no freezing down for this calf!), this mother does not. She chooses when Junior walks, where he walks, how fast it takes him to get there, when he sleeps, where he sleeps, which side he stands on to nurse and what sort of bull he’ll be when he grows up–and will continually make her demands known by hollering at him until her complies. She’s not opposed to moderate head-nudging to get her point across. In human form, this is the sort of mother that people give the nickname “The General” or “The Tank” or “Sir.” She makes the decisions, and by God you’d better just do it or get out of her way.

We also have our share of the Abusive and Neglectful. In these cases, we act live Bovine Social Services and place the calf up for adoption. This is where grafting comes in. Unfortunately, in some (most on a commercial ranch where the calf crop is more important than genetic potential) cases, jail or rehab is not available for such gals, especially if they are repeat offenders. Their sentence is often Arby’s via the sale barn. It may seem cruel, but if a cow is a calf-killer, or fails to successfully raise a baby at all, she is not productive and becomes a money pit, when is not a viable option for any sort of business.

The Mother Hen momma is one of my favorites. You know this mother–she’s had multiple children of her own, and nothing fazes her. She’s generally a little older, and more experienced in the trials and tribulations of raising children, but loves each and every one of them all the same. She’s seen it all! The You’re-On-Your-Owns and Satellites and neglectful mothers often leave their calves under her careful supervision, while they take some “me” time and chew their cud gazing a mountain view, or have girlchat over a meal of particularly delicious hay with their girlfriends.

The “I Have No Idea What I’m Doing But We’re Going To Make This Work Darnit” mother is often a young or first-time mother who said pish-posh to all those parenting handbooks and advice from experienced mothers–and now regrets it. Not that she’ll ever tell! She’s generally bewildered by the whole idea of motherhood and the living being bursting forth from her loins. This sort of mother usually has the best intentions, but needs a little extra coaching to help her learn the ropes.

The “Oh Another One” Mother has had so many children that she can’t keep track of them, nor does she care. Like the Mother Hen, she’s experienced and has seen it all. She, however, is not as interested in the fuzzy little bundles of joy she always seems to be carting around. She loves them, sure, but is not as affectionate as she might be. She raises ’em, weans ’em and says hello to a couple of child-free months before it all starts again. She’s often like a Satellite who’s fallen out of orbit–she always knows where her calf is, and will never truly leave him, but Junior usually has the responsibility to go find her when he’s hungry–she won’t come a-wassailin’.

 

Family · On The Ranch · Personal

Back in the Saddle

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Every mama I know marks the first years of motherhood by a series of milestones not only for the baby—first bath, first laugh, sitting up, crawling, walking, speaking—but for herself. It starts small—first time to the grocery store with the kid(s). First time out without the kid(s). First time exercising, first time sleeping well, first time you start to feel like yourself again. First time some of your old clothes start to fit, first time out with girlfriends, first time you realize that you’ve got this, whatever this is.

And then comes the bigger things: maybe first time back to work, or first time deciding that you are going to stay home. First time starting a small business so you can stay home. First time realizing you’re in a routine, and not only can parenting be wonderful, but it can also be really fun. I love the firsts, especially around the fourth month when the baby’s personality starts coming out, and mine starts coming back. Then, even though there are the inevitable hard days and meltdowns and breakdowns, at least I feel like myself doing it, and not a weird sleep-deprived zombie blob who doesn’t know what she’s doing.

Now, don’t think I don’t feel like a weird sleep-deprived zombie blob after ze bebe in question is four months old. Because sometimes, or lots of times, yeah, totally. But around 4-6 months, I’ve found (the two whole times that I’ve done this) that things start to level out, and I start feeling more the Cassidy the Mother instead of someone I don’t know very well who is surviving and taking care of all the things but isn’t very connected to herself because hormones and alien skin pouches and newborn sleep cycles and pumping and oh yeah getting the hang of a whole other person. You know?

(Cassidy the Mother [is this an allegory?] sounds weird, ya? I can’t say Mama Cass for all of the obvious reasons. Or, maybe I should say Mama Cass for all the obvious reasons.)

So. We have babies, and every time we come back to ourselves, our husbands, our children slowly, slowly, and then faster and faster and bam! We’re back, baby. Or at least back enough, because I was talking to a teenager (young adult? I don’t know, the kid was in college), and I’m never going to be that back. That ship sailed awhile ago, but the land on the horizon disappeared almost exactly three years ago and there’s no going back.

I’m not sad, though, because golly the fraughtness (that is a word; I say so) and the drama and the uncertainty of being that age. No thank you, hard pass, been there done that, no mas.

Anyways. I’ve had two babies. Each time I’ve gone through almost the same milestones for myself and watched for the same for my babies. Yesterday, I hit another one, and it made me very contemplative, as these things can do.

Bert looked at me on Saturday and said “Let’s ride tomorrow.” And after thinking of all the reasons we shouldn’t–so much to do–I said “Let’s.” I’m not going to tell you how long it’s been since I’ve been horseback. This isn’t a huge, huge deal to me, to be honest, because I know it’s a season and someday, when the kids are all in school, I’ll ride as much as I want.

But, as my husband helpfully pointed out, if I waited oh, ten years to ride a horse it would be a) a travesty because we ranch for heaven’s sake b) ridiculous because we have nice horses and I really enjoy it, and c) I’d have to pretty much start over, at least muscle-memory-wise, in a ten-years-older body, and I hate starting over, and feeling old, so better now than later. So, we snuggled Buster in the stroller, saddled some horses, and rode in the round pen. Wacey played in the pen next to us, roped with Bert, rode with me, and it was prettttty amazing.

When we were done, the horses were put up, and I was sitting on the sofa marveling at how tired I was because Lord, we used to ride all day, I remarked to Bert that I felt good riding, that I felt like I actually had a pretty good seat, which was surprising considering the muscles that are used for riding are also the ones that are pretty consistently wrecked by pregnancy and childbirth, and I’m not exactly exercising consistently. I expected him to laugh a little and say something nice while also saying no, I looked like a sack of potatoes, but he said “I thought so too. I think you looked better than before, actually.” Friends, that was great to hear, because so many things are so hard after having a baby, and it was nice to have something be not so hard. Or that getting back in the saddle was, really, just getting back in the saddle and picking up where I left off, or maybe even a little ahead.

Motherhood has consistently reminded me that I can do hard things, that the human body is amazing (but also gross), and that getting back into things that remind me about myself are very, very important.

Which leads me to this aside: If you saw my stories yesterday, you’ll also know that my riding pants finally fit, which is a BFD for me because if you know me at all, you know I have very specific ideas about how work/riding pants should fit, and that I hate buying new pants, and that I found my last few pairs of these unicorns at a tiny feed store in Pennsylvania, and that they’re the last jeans to fit, usually, because of how they fit and the lack of stretch.

I don’t think we need to “bounce back” after baby (ew, stop), but for me it’s so nice to feel at home in my favorite clothes again. And to not have to wear unacceptable pants to ride in.

So, if you’re a mama who is in the early days, or wondering when you’ll recognize yourself, it will happen. It can take a long time, or a not-so-long time, and it can definitely vary by kid. If you’re a mama, or any person, really, that is worried about getting back in the proverbial or literal saddle, do it. Take a leap of faith! It might work out, it might not (like the last time I tried to put on my riding pants, or actually buy everything on our grocery list with both boys in tow), but at least you’ll know that it’s not time yet, and to try again soon.

Happy Monday! Try something new this week!

On The Ranch · Personal

This is a Season

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The other day, we went down to watch the guys ship cattle. We watched the trucks drive by the house early in the morning, and Wacey couldn’t wiggle into his boots fast enough to go down to the pens.

We sat on a flatbed trailer and watched cow after cow get into the trucks while Buster napped in the car, and it was one of those mothering moments that was so bittersweet. Sweet because I love everyday things that become amazing through the eyes of a child and it was so fun to be sitting next to my oldest boy while he said “Woooow” over and over again, and bitter because oh, I miss working cattle. I miss being horseback, I miss being on the crew, I even miss getting up early and hating my life because it’s not even light out yet and I’m horseback and freezing. I miss the hustle and the use of my body for something other than mothering or intentional exercise, and I miss feeling like I’ve put in a full day of hard, productive work. I miss feeling part of something bigger than tiny humans and the world that can feel so small when it’s really best for all involved to have naptime at home every day.

But you know, this is a season (and “this is a season” has become my mothering mantra when things are tough). Mothering young children is a long-but-short season. I don’t like thinking of it as a sacrifice because that idea just doesn’t suit me or my experience of mothering because for me, motherhood has been a gift–a hard-won, shocking gift–that I never, ever expected. I did not grow up wishing to be a mother, although I wanted to be one…someday. I never, ever thought I would have two children before I was even thirty, much less adore having those two children.

(But, you know, I never thought I would be married and living on a ranch ever, much less before I was thirty, much less loving it, either, so this is God’s not-so-subtle way of saying “Hey, sis, take your plans and shove it. Mine are waaaaaay better.”)

Motherhood has changed me in so many good, good ways. I’m more patient, more empathetic, slower to anger, and quicker to laugh. I’m much more likely to lean on my devotional than get butt hurt over something I can’t change, and much more likely to see the little special moments and have gratitude for everyday life. Bert even says I’m late less, which is nothing short of a miracle, because chronic lateness runs in my family and kids require so much stuff to just get out the door.

Motherhood has also given me the perspective to sit on a flatbed trailer, watching my husband load cattle into a truck, and recognize that while I’m a tiny bit jealous, and that I miss it a lot, someday my children will be old enough to mind themselves while their daddy and I load cattle. Or maybe, if we’re lucky, they’ll be horseback right along with us, and that would be the biggest treat of all.