The “F” word makes many people feel faint — but it’s what gives my life strength. It’s how I identify. Actually it’s a combination of three “F” words that really make up the core of who I am and what I love: family, farming and faith.

My family, like many in agriculture, I imagine, are a funny little band of characters going through life sharing milk and the common cold, vying to drive the nicest tractor, hiding the chocolate from each other, borrowing clothes and machinery, short-sheeting the beds, putting toothpaste inside Oreo cookies, laughing, loving, fighting, teasing and sharing the common threads that bind us together — farming and family.

Farming was never a question: long hours, little sleep, tight budgets — it was a lifestyle I knew and loved. But starting our own family seemed to bring many, many hours of “what ifs” and uncertainty. It seemed like a much bigger commitment than signing over everything you had to the bank for the opportunity to work like a dog in hopes that the bank would let you do it all over the next year. But the moment we saw each of those little baby boys, we wished we would have had them sooner. It was love at first sight — we know it was love because Dr. Seuss said you know you’re in love when you can’t sleep. I think he followed it up with something like “because reality is better than your dreams.” But he could have stopped with sleep — we certainly didn’t the first few months. But every sleep-deprived moment was worth it, for family is the foundation of everything. We’re like four volumes of the same book — each recording different moments, different perspectives, different wants and goals. But while our chapters are different, they are bound by the same fabric and thread.

One of my favorite results of having kids running (and often shouting) around the house and underfoot is the inability to be cross all day. One can start out the day in a bad mood, but it is nearly impossible to keep that mood — they are far too entertaining.

The other morning I came in and grabbed the fresh load of linens out of the dryer. I tossed the John Deere sheet set to my oldest son, saying, “Quick, put these on your bed. Then we need to go swath.” Later that night when we came in, tired from a long day, my son asked my help making his bed.

“I thought you made it this morning?” I asked. He shook his head with a smirk, “You said put the sheets ‘on’ the bed, not make it.” He was right. That was exactly what I had said. We both knew what I had meant — but his logic was impeccable.

Only days after the sheet incident, my 3-year-old reinforced what most seasoned parents already know — that word specificity is paramount. I was in the bathroom when he first toddled out of bed and knocked on the door of our only bathroom, our other bathroom currently under construction.

“Can you just go outside?” I asked (one of the perks of living in the country).

“Where?” he asked. “It’s cold outside.”

“Just go out the door,” I answered, “on the porch.”

Five minutes later when my husband came in for breakfast, I realized just what a poor word choice that was — but how can one have a bad day after that? It’s those crazy moments in life that change your mood, that make you smile — that create happiness. Like when my 3-year-old helped put away the groceries, taking great pride in opening the package of plastic utensils meant for a picnic, putting them in the silverware drawer and throwing away the box. Or when you give your kids each a quarter of a breakfast omelet, but your youngest wants a bigger piece because he has a bigger mouth. Or when he licks the frosting out of the Oreo and then happily announces he saved the cookie for you. (That may be where the toothpaste-filled Oreos came in — not that I am admitting to it.)

Those moments are love. Reality really is better than dreams — even though I have no difficulty falling asleep now. It’s really hard to beat the life of a farming family. And as we all head out to the field, in our different pieces of hay equipment, I cant help smiling to myself — the family that bales together, prevails together.

Brianna Walker occasionally writes about the Farmer’s Fate for the Blue Mountain Eagle.

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