I would love to say I have a wealth of Wisdom, but actually, this post is more about aging and my observations of the changes that aging makes on the homesteader than real wisdom. Some say with age comes wisdom, and that is true to a point, but there are so many variables that affect a farm/homestead that we have little control over, that if someone claims to be an expert…or have wisdom…they are probably yanking your chain. Some of us are just too stubborn to give anything the control over our lives to make us quit. With my age, I have learned a lot, but the most important thing I have learned is probably the fact that I really don’t know much. But I have learned a bit about the differences in the generations around me within my family. This post will share some of my observations and feelings. It’s a bit wordy, but hopefully you will find something of value among the words.
I’ve actually thought long and hard about writing about this subject over the last few days. It’s kind of touchy. I’m a bit in denial about my own age. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have one foot in the grave or anything like that, but I am facing the fact that I don’t get things done as quickly as I used to…..and when I try…..I don’t recover the way I used to….and there will come a time when all I know, that I have not shared, will be lost.
I have been avoiding facing my own aging, but somehow Mother Nature always seems to find a nice little brick to drop on my head. At any point in time, it is possible to have 4 generations working on one of the farms in the family, and it is interesting to sit back and watch the work patterns of the different generations. I’m finding I relate more to my parents these days than my children, but I am in the unique situation of being in multiple roles. I am the daughter….but I am also the mother….and now am the grandmother. My reaction and abilities with various homesteading tasks are as different as the varied roles I have.
My grandchildren are excited about farm jobs, some more than others. They love gathering eggs, feeding the animals and walking through the garden. I remember watching Pioneer Boy 2 unload a bale of hay. He was determined to unload it, despite the fact that it weighed twice what he did. He heaved and pushed and pulled….his face turned red, his muscles strained, he gritted his teeth and by sheer determination he moved that bale, one inch at a time, to the edge of the tail gate where he finally managed to move it far enough for gravity to take over and it fell to the ground. He was so proud! He had moved heaven and earth to move that bale. This is a prime example of how the youngest of homesteaders get things done; sheer determination. They have no idea that there are things they cannot do, so they will try anything. They want to help, whether they are able to accomplish the job or not. This sometimes causes frustration for the older generations. There is the knowledge that we can do the job faster, so we want to just do it ourselves. It is hard to remember, when the job needs to be done, that our guidance and patience is what will teach our children/grand children how to stay with something until it is done; to keep going, even when it appears that the job is impossible; to never let someone else set your standards. We do however have to guide them and set some limits. Pioneer Girl 1 was convinced at the age of three she was ready for a paring knife when I was cutting up potatoes. She was content, however to saw away at a potato with a butter knife. She was “helping”; she was safe; I got my job done and it only cost me one small potato. The cost of that potato built her confidence level much more so than being shoo’ed out of the way while I quickly did the job. Let them learn; let them help; keep them safe and let them go for it and love them through it all!
The parents of the Pioneer Grandchildren take a different approach to life. They spend their days hurrying through life. Trying to pack more activities into a day than are possible to accomplish. Their energy knows no limits and they can get more done in a day than Papa and I do in three. They dream big and are working on anchoring those dreams to reality. They are busy raising their families, holding down jobs, and work independently on projects that they fit into their hectic schedules. This approach to life can cause frustration for them, for those who love them and those who work around them. This pace leads to exhaustion and many unfinished projects. Patience is needed. Be ready to teach them when they are ready to learn; be ready to spend time with them when they have the time to be present. Their hearts are in the right places, but they may promise more than can possibly give. They are the strength the Pioneer Grandchildren don’t yet have and the strength the Pioneer Grandparents are beginning to lose. When they crash from their crazy schedules, they need to catch up on their rest. Burning a candle at both ends is not healthy, and must be addressed. Failure to take a break can result in careless accidents. I watched Pioneer Son learn this lesson the hard way this summer when a fall from a ladder broke bones. The recovery period took the place of finishing the project. Accustomed to working independently, many need to be given time to realize that cooperation on projects accomplishes more than individuals will gain by themselves. But be careful, make sure there is an equal give and take. I will help most anyone, but it doesn’t take long for the desire to help to disappear when the help is taken but not given back. They may need to be reminded of that….not daily….but occasionally, a slight nudge may be necessary as they learn their way. They know everything they need to know to be successful, but still have a multitude of unanswered questions and frequently need to be reassured that their knowledge is correct. They will ask questions, when they are ready, but until then they may see that advice as meddling and not respond in the loving appreciative manner in which that advice was given. 😉 They need support; they need to know that the mistakes they make will be the life lessons they will use to guide themselves and their children through future years. They need to know that the mistakes they make are natural, and that everyone makes them, or soon will. They need to be guided, not scolded, as they work their way through life. Soon, they will realize that the promises they make to others are important, and they will begin to keep more and more of them. It is a time for learning; a time to develop ways to turn the dreams into reality; a time to pave the way for their children and set examples. As the parents of the parents, we must handle this time carefully, gently guiding while letting them find their own way. Let them continue to learn; let them make mistakes and fail; and let them learn from their failures; let them go through it and love them through it all.
As the Parents of the Parents, the Grandparents have a unique role in life and the homesteading process. While the lessons have been learned, the Grandparents know there is so much more to learn. They may have a sudden urge to learn all they can and try a variety of new projects and ideas. They may have more projects started than they can ever finish. They are a wealth of information, if you can get them to remember that they had to learn it and not everyone knows it. While they may want to share it, it may be a challenge to get them to share that information because they think you should already know it. They are realizing that their bodies and minds clash on a daily basis. While the mind says to get up and get going, the knees, hips, or back may say, “Whoa! Just a minute, I need a break!” I canned peaches for 8 hours the other night. Papa and a friend’s son were excellent help, so the peaches came to me peeled. All I had to do was halve them, place them in the jars, pour the syrup over them and process them. However, by the time the last two canners were on the stove, at 10 p.m. my back was hurting worse than it ever has in my life. I believe I was having muscle spasms from bending over the sink…..and I never want to feel those again. I took naproxen, laid on my back with my knees pulled up. I lay on a table outside, and waited for the timer to go off one last time. I got some nice star gazing done, but dang! With their children out of the house, the Grandparents have more time to do what needs to be done, but it can, at times, be much too quiet to enjoy that extra time. The need to “parent” and advise is not gone, but there is no one to readily parent, so advice can come out when it is not asked for and not appreciated. The realization that help may be needed to complete projects can be quite unsettling. Couple that with the subconscious realization that time has gone by quickly and the Grandparents may begin to think of their own mortality. Realizing that there is so much more to learn, can lead to a passionate drive to get things done as soon as they are thought of. This drive can make a sense of urgency that others do not understand. It can lead to arguments and resentment, if allowed, with the Parents resenting the fact that the Grandparents appear to have no respect for their own family’s needs, their varied obligations and their limited time. The Grandparents may be hurt and resentful that the Parents are too busy for them and the things they need help with. It becomes a delicate time in the relationship between Parent and Grandparent. Grandparents are a wealth of knowledge; acknowledge this and respect it. Grandparents have difficulty adjusting to the need to slow down and pace themselves; be patient with them. While Grandparents have a need to share their knowledge and work together with family, they can forget that not everyone already knows what they do. Realize that time is short, spend time with them and love them through it all.
When delving into the Great Grandparents life, I realize they have slowed down. Perhaps not intentionally, but even if it is intentional, slowing down does not have to be a negative thing. It is a well earned rest. While it may take them longer to get things done, they have learned to pace themselves and make the most of each part of a process. They know their limits, usually. They can work steadily, much like the tortoise in childhood fable. While they have become set in their ways, they sometimes have the feeling they know what is best and frequently are correct. They may spend hours working on a tool that will make a job easier, showing just how ingenious and creative they are. They now have the wisdom to appreciate both successes and failures, and failures are looked on more as learning experiences than disappointments. They want to do what they did when they were 20, with the wisdom they have at 70. My own father has a difficult time being the observer. Whether we are making hay for the cattle or working the cattle, he hates the fact that he is dependent on help. We don’t mind helping, we are glad to help, but it does take some planning and organization to get schedules coordinated. My brothers and their wives, along with Papa and myself actually enjoy getting together, catching up and doing an honest days work. Dad is still very much in charge and has taught me most of what I know about animal husbandry. I would not be where I am today without his influence. Frustration will surface with Great Grandparents. Frustrations with situations and the reality of limitations are just under the surface. Sometimes they can surface with short, abrupt and downright gruff behavior, but it is only because they KNOW. They KNOW what they used to be able to do; they KNOW what they still would like to do; they KNOW the lessons the younger people are still learning, they KNOW they will not be able to work as effectively as they used to and they KNOW that that if no one listens to them parts of history will soon be lost forever. They are proud; proud of their accomplishments and too proud to ask for help. As the great-grandparents, they are frustrated and frustrating at the same time. They have a wealth of information to share. They know you won’t use it all, but they want to share it, to be heard and respected. They want to spend time with family, for they know in the big picture, that is the most important thing there is. They need to share; learn from their mistakes; respect them for what they have done and be patient as they continue to do what they can. They need to love and be loved; be there as support while they relax; learn to relax and enjoy their company. They need to have a relationship with their family; spend time with them and love them through it all.
As I have worked through the differences in the generations around my homestead, I have come to realize that, while there are times the differences are glaring and cause strife and stress, the similarities are much more common. From Pioneer Girl 2 to Great Grandparents and everyone in between, the need to do what is best for family is foremost. Sharing is a dominant need. Sharing information; sharing time; sharing love; sharing a belief that roots are important and that they run deep are common threads through all 4 of these generations. If we all will give what we want to receive; respect, time, love; we will all continue to hold a bond that is unbreakable. I am blessed to still be able to visit with my Grandmother, meaning the Pioneer Grandchildren have a great-great-grandmother that they have had the privilege and blessing to know and love. Though she may not be able to go places alone, and cannot do the things for others she used to do, she is still a big part of me. She is the one who taught me what the texture of bread dough should be before the first rise. She taught me a love for roses, though I never learned to successfully grow them. 😉 She taught me to love each member of my family unconditionally and to always see the best in people. She taught me to give without expecting anything in return. She is always glad to see me, even when the amount of time between visits is inexcusable. She has been my biggest fan and loved me through it all.
I would imagine the families of the pioneer days were very much like my Modern Missouri Pioneer family. Though there may have been squabbles, and even fights, the bond of family was strong. The need to work together and pass on family tradition was a necessity for survival. While not necessary for true physical survival today, in order to grow strong, with deep roots and broad horizons, people need the family bond. So many people today are lost and searching…..searching for things they can’t name; searching for feelings they have never felt; searching for a way of life that is fulfilling and they can be proud of. While I am less than pleased to face my own aging, I am so thankful to be doing it with this family of mine. It is good to be aging and not searching.