Ranch Kids: Ranch Life is the Best Life
Raising kids is hard. The qualifications are lacking for many, including myself, but somehow we get the job! It’s one of the most challenging but arguably most rewarding jobs you could ever sign up for. While I have limited experience, both in parenting and ranching, I’d say one of the best ways to raise kids is on a ranch. Ranch life is unique, and the details vary from location to location, but the fundamental basics are the same on most cattle operations worldwide. ‘Work hard and do your best with what you have’ is a typical thought process. And who wouldn’t want their kids to have that as a value base?
Dreams turned into Reality
Always a dream, moving to a ranch became a reality for our little family in 2018. Our daughter, Hayes Katherine, was eight months old, and I had no idea what we were getting into. Like many ranch wives, I have a job in town, so we were spread thin and didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked at the ranch in her younger years. She is still exposed to many great experiences and lessons as she grows. So as not to limit this piece to just my viewpoint, I talked to two much more experienced ranchers and mothers, Erica Johnson-Valdez from New Mexico and Hilaria Weatherby from southern Arizona. I asked the simple question, “What are the pros and cons of raising kids on a ranch?” Here’s what we all had to say.
Thoughts on being Raised on a Ranch
When asked what she thought the pros were of raising a kid on a ranch, Erica immediately said, “You are with your kids all the time. Everything you do is together as a family. That is super important to us, and many ranch families value that.” A true blessing of ranching is the family involvement, from smaller operations that do most of the work on their weekends off to the big outfits that employ many people and welcome the kids to join in on the fun. As Hilaria points out, this ability to involve the whole family on an everyday or regular basis also gives parents and families a chance to instill a strong work ethic into their children. Working hard is a learned skill, and who better to learn it from than your hard-working parents or family members who are doing just that for their dreams.
Value of Life
The value of life is something often missed in today’s society. Understanding that each life, human or animal, is significant is an inherent lesson learned when you live on a ranch. Being able to instill in my daughter the humility and reverence for a cow’s life, and then knowing that cow gives up that life to provide us with amazingly nutritious products to nourish our bodies, has been a blessing to our family. My daughter understands that when she is eating beef, she is eating cow, but she also knows that we worked hard and diligently to give that cow the best life possible in exchange for the wholesome, nutritious, and delicious beef we enjoy eating.
On a lighter note, ranch life allows you the space to enjoy the simple things. Like sitting next to the creek that may run only a few times a year when the rain is good. Or the responsibility only an animal can teach a young person. The chance to watch calves grow over the years into productive members of the herd. Or simply to just turn off all the devices and enjoy the quiet one will never experience in town. Ranch kids know and understand that the simple things make life good. Which makes it much easier to see all the good in life.
In all situations, there is a negative to go with the positives. Often, ranch kids are isolated from peers their own age, not because they want to be but often due to the remote locations of the ranches they call home. Here in the desert southwest, the ranches are large, which accommodate a moderate cow herd, and many miles and hours from the nearest town. Trucking a kid to school daily makes little sense logistically, so homeschooling is often the way to learn. There may be concerns about socialization, but often, ranch families are involved with churches or other community groups that provide environments for friend-making.
Adapting to My Family’s New Adventure
I wasn’t raised on a ranch. In fact, the middle of a large city is what I called home for most of my life. Personal childhood experience doesn’t equate to this story; only my short five years as a ranch mom have given me my knowledge base. But I can only hope when my daughter is grown and off on her own adventures in life, she looks back at her childhood with a deep fondness and appreciation for the lessons the ranch taught her. A strong sense of what is right and what is wrong, an ability to work well with others in stressful situations, and the grit to keep going even when the job gets tough are all things I pray she takes with her into whatever life she may lead. Taking note of the ranch kids (many of whom are now young adults) I’ve known, including Erica’s daughter Danli Valdez, we’re on the right path.
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