Halters and Show-Sticks and Babies, Oh My!




I am not good with babies.


When other people gather round a newborn, cooing, sighing, jostling to be the first to hold them, I’m the one who volunteers to make coffee. When the newborns were mine, I was only slightly more at ease. And as much as I loved my babies, I just didn’t get them. I never really felt like I was good at the baby stage – the swaddling, the burping. The sacrifice.


Infancy was a stage in my children’s lives that I didn’t so much enjoy, as get through.


Other moms got sentimental about the ends of stages in their babies lives, shed tears when they packed up high chairs and cribs. I quietly, but gleefully, watched the parade of baby paraphernalia roll out my door the moment my daughter outgrew it. My daughter is doing amazing things. And she’s doing them far in advance of when her older brother did them. She can, without assistance, put a snowsuit on, go to the bathroom, empty the dishwasher (except for the knives, I promise), butter her own bread, and on and on.


I get so excited with each new achievement. Each step towards independence.


And then I get greedy for more.


Because she’s so capable, the things that she can’t do deplete the shallow store of patience I have left.




I was a farm kid.


Want proof?


Here’s me, bustin’ mutton, circa 1980:


Seven years later, when I was 12, I joined 4-H. I raised a steer, from November to June. Every year for 6 years. I’d start with a 650 pound calf, all wild and untamed, and by the end of the season, I’d try to have a tame, 1200 pound steer that I’d take to Show & Sale. We’d groom these calves, back comb the ends of their tails into bouffants, clean the dirt out of their hooves, wipe the snot out of their noses. Parade them around a ring, make them stand pretty for a judge.


Even though we couldn’t afford it, my dad made sure we had shiny leather halters for our calves.


We’d wrap the end of the strap around our hand (even though we weren’t supposed to because it was dangerous and our arms would get ripped off if the calf suddenly took off or at least that’s what the adults promised would happen), and pull that calf wherever we needed it to go. We’d also go in with a show stick.


Because the steer needed to be standing squarely for the judges to assess them. But the steers didn’t know that. So we’d poke their feet with these sticks, the calf would raise his foot, and (hopefully) put it down where you wanted it.




What the hell am I getting at?


Today was a day.


A day when I was lacking in patience/sleep/vodka.


Even though my little girl can get into a snowsuit like nobody’s business, she hasn’t mastered winter boots. Today, as I was trying to get out the door, she kept putting the wrong foot into the wrong boot. Over and over. I’d motion to her to lift her left foot, she’d lift her right. And so on, and so on. Once I got the boots on her, she was slow, so freaking slow, I finally just picked her up and strode across the yard to the car.


I sat behind the wheel, and in the midst of the “Oh shit, we’re late!” chaos, and thought.




I thought about how much easier it would be if the use of a halter and show stick were possible with kids.



19 responses to “Halters and Show-Sticks and Babies, Oh My!

  1. i share your disdain for babies. mine were barely ok… when someone asks “would you like to hold the baby?” i generally just reply “no… not really…”

    i think you’re onto something with the halter/stick idea. probably best to only use it at home, though. on your own child… people are so funny about that sort of thing.

  2. Yeah. The constant refrain . . . “No, the OTHER foot!” does get monotonous.

    She’ll work it out. My youngest boy refused to learn how to tie his own shoes until he was around 8 or so. I think he knew how, for he had been taught well, but he just never wanted to do it.

    Then one day, it became important, to him, for him to get it done.

    Now, with my youngest at a very mature 8, we are finally ditching the car seats.


  3. @curtisincalgary

    Oh I LAUGHED when I got to the end of this post. I totally relate since I was in 4-H Beef as well.

    Good one.

  4. Wait, so you can’t use cattle prods and harnesses on kids?
    Aw crap. File under the “con” column.

  5. Technically it is possible to use sticks and harnesses, just generally frowned upon. But I don’t judge.

    I share your frusteration with the slowness of children. My daughter is so freakin’ slow. There is no sense of urgency there. The house could be on fire and it would still take her ten minutes to get out of bed.

  6. i’m so pleased that i’m not the only breeder that dislikes the baby stage. it’s cute and all, but c’mon already!

  7. I think all babies should get sweet tats, too, like a cattle brand. So everyone knows that ass is mine.


  9. mongoliangirl

    Oh shit! Is this why I ended up with no human children?

  10. Oh my. Be careful even joking about using halters and show sticks on kids. Someone will be turning you into Social Services.

  11. I’m most concerned with the lack of vodka in your house. Mine flows straight to my kitchen from Russia via a pipeline.

    P.S: I just threatened to give my toddler alcohol to get him to sleep. So, CPS can come after me too.

  12. Southern (in) Sanity

    I hope that was a joke. I don’t think anyone is going to be turning Darwin into Social Services. But if they do, I guess we’ll know who called them!

  13. daisyfae: Indeed. We live in strange times 😉

    tysdaddy: I know; I have to remember where we were a year, 2 years ago to realize how amazingly far we’ve come.

    Curtis: So you’ve probably got an old showstick laying around, too? Let me know if you ever try it out.

    Stephanie: “Can’t” and “shouldn’t” are two different things…

    vinomom: Unless it involves candy. Then, there is an urgency that cannot be matched.

    aprildawn: We’re a quiet bunch, but we’re probably more common than we realized.

    Rassles: Yeah, except for the times when I DON’T want people to know they’re mine. Like, when they’ve taken off their pants and are running around a soccer field…not that that’s happened…yet…

    mkh: Are you living a bit of a sleep-with-one-eye-open existence? Poor guy.

    derfina: I might know where there are a couple. For cheap.

    mongoliangirl: They’re not as different as you think.

    Southern (in)Sanity: Um, yeah, that could happen.

    Kathleen: It’s not even fair: We have to hear the last generation’s stories about whiskey on the gums, and we can’t do jack shit. Sigh.

  14. this is precisely why I don’t have a child. If I could give birth to an 8 year old, I’d be the first in line.

  15. It gets better. My tweener son is amazingly self-sufficient. Except when he is not, decidedly NOT. And then I feel impatient, too.

    Woops here comes a serious response…watch out….

    Oh, man, when I stop and think about it…geesh, how much pressure I put on my kid. I have been trying to help him get more able to manage his own time and workload. But he fails time and again to get the idea of planning out his week to make sure he gets everything done. He just wants to go with the flow but then he panics at the last minute if his work isn’t done.

    “I know what I want to do when we get home: draw a map for next week’s D & D game!” he shares with me, beaming with excitement.

    “Uh, well, if you plan out your week and know when you will get everything done that you need to do, then you can have more fun when it is time to relax because you won’t have stuff hanging over your head.”

    Ignore, Ignore. Ignore. Finally Mom says, “DO your physical therapy and your math and have you started your book report….”

    I tried to toss a big ole fat hint his way…. But just as in your story, I had to carry him to the car cause he couldn’t get his darn shoes on, basically. You know what I mean. Parenting is hard.

  16. Beej: Even by 2, I can breathe easier. But the first 24 months, oy.

    Writinggb: So what you’re saying is, all I can change is my reaction to the situation? Wow, that was WAY cheaper than therapy, and yet, as effective. Thanks!

  17. Sue: You’re with me, right? Livestock and children can be eerily similar.

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