Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Middle-aged musing: Barn kids, friend or foe?

I never really looked forward to middle age, but I thought it would have its benefits. As an adult, I reasoned that I might be able to influence, if not control, the behavior of children Especially naughty children. Alas, children today are either oblivious to my direction or they have some form of highly specific hearing loss (i.e., when I'm talking).

It's early Sunday morning, and I'm sitting on a tractor at the barn, waiting for it to warm up. Some kids and their parents are prepping to go to a horse show. One of the kids, perhaps 9 years old is grazing her pony directly in the path of the tractor. The pony, Silver Streak, and the kid are cute as can be. Sliver, as he is called, is a doll under saddle but spooky on the ground. He bolts. And if you don't let go of the lead rope, you are going with him.

I'm ready to move the tractor into the barn, and I call to Silver's young owner to move her pony. She moves him, but in the wrong direction. Now they are on the side of the barn with scary, sharp farm equipment only a few feet away, followed by a sharp drop of about 5 feet (the barn is on the side of a hill). "Justine!" I call over the din of the tractor, and gesticulate clearly to motion her over to the other side of the barn, which is clear of anything dangerous and has no slope. Is she ignoring me?

Scene from the Diary of a Mad Barnworker

Me: [Shutting off tractor] "Move Sliver to the other side, Justine. I don't want you near the equipment in case he spooks."

Child: "Oh, we'll be fine."

Me: [Unsuccesfully attempting a maternal tone] "Justine? I need you to move, honey."

Child: [Exasperated] "He doesn't spook when he's outside."

Me: [Imagining both of them in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the drop] "I know you don't want him to get hurt. Can you move?"

Child: [Shrugs. Continues grazing]

I note movement in the aisleway. Justine's mom is within clear earshot, attaching fuzzies to Sliver's halter. Has she heard this exchange?

Me: "Justine, move him away from the barn." [Mom? Wanna back me here? No? I vault off the tractor and begin to approach] "I'm sorry but this just isn't..."

[Mom pokes her head out of the barn.]

Mom: "Justine, we're running late. Are you ready?"

Child: [demurely] "Yes, mom."

[Pair disappears into the aisleway]

Me: [Returns to tractor, baffled and annoyed. My mom would have had me by the ear if I'd been so disrespectful. Sigh.] "Kids!"

I don't hate kids, really. They're cute. And they mostly behave. In the end, I'm more torked at the parents.


  1. Barn kids!!! GAAAHHH!! I have so many thoughts on this topic that I need to go rinse my head off before I can write.

  2. Good post! Yes, that mama should have been all over her kid there.

    Around this house, when it comes to the horses and kids mixing, you better listen the first time. There is no count to three. It can be life or death and you HAVE to listen!

    I also subscribe the "it takes a village" theory. At a recent gymkhana, it went both ways. My hubby pulled a toddler who when his mama turned her back, wandered into the path of the arena entrance (during barrels, not good) and then the announcer caught my child sticking her head thru the arena fence. I was all over my child for that. I tell ya, it was the most stressful day, kids and horses everywhere. When we finally loaded up, I collapsed in the front seat, finally able to RELAX for a second.

    Kids are tough, but as a parent you have to be tougher. Safety first.

  3. Eek! My mom would have strung me up 1. for being so cavalier with my horse and 2. for not listening to an adult. It does amaze me that adults let their kids behave that way. I certainly hope that I can manage to teach mine (when I have them) some general barn safety (like paying attention to your surroundings) and respect (listening when you are told to do something -- especially when it's for your own good).

  4. It's not only barn kids! A lot of kids these days listen to no one. You're right though as kids we would have been punished for any disrespect shown to adults. I blame the parents.

  5. You know, I've felt like kids these days are less polite and more self-centered and materialistic than when I was young. I don't have any, so I'm afraid of expressing that opinion in public and offending parents. But I've been really thinking about, "Is it true? Or am I just getting older and really every adult feels this way?"

    But just from your story, my parents would have made me apologize for not listening to an adult - especially about safety.

  6. I was at a great blog (the offended blogger? not sure) and it had a quote:
    “Being offended is a natural consequence of leaving the house”. Fran Liebowitz

    More and more I'm thinking this is true!

  7. We have a little sales, boarding and lesson program and when kids violate one single rule, they go on "parental supervision" (mom or dad have to stay at the barn with the kid) for however many days I choose. Works wonders and they rarely break another rule.

  8. Barn kids & their parents: It's hard to tell the difference between them!

  9. As I get older and crabbier it is definitely getting harder to remember that I was once a barn kid myself.

  10. Does every generation think the new generation of children are less respectful than the last? Probably! I know I do! Reading your blog makes me want to ride. It's been a long time.

  11. It sounds like she's a kid who has gotten used to not having to listen to ANY adult. I think a lot of parents just give up when the kid doesn't listen because, after all, it is a tough job being a parent...maybe too tough for some.

    I expect my kids to listen to other adults at the barn, at Girl Scouts, at camp, wherever. I would have their hides if they didn't.

  12. Cute picture, the last one. No, I'm with ya! When I was a kid, we obeyed any adult except maybe a pervert. The only answer we could provide was "okay." Today, kids think adults are just bigger kids, their equals. You're also right about the parents--most of them time, they're WEAK.

  13. Kid's do not just come out of the womb born with these types of behaviors. They develop responses, habits and personalities based on who and what they are around. What makes a relatively dis-respectful child different from a respectful one? Their parents and their raising. What the parents respond to and how. It's not bad children in themselves that are the true problem, it's their parents.

    Children are not going to possess the manners and maturity of an adult. That's why we're adults. So when you're around kids, you need to know the difference of a kid being a kid and when it's an example of the effects of poor parenting.

    At 9, a kid IMO should know that we show adults respect and use our manners when talking or responding to them.

    Just MO.

  14. When someone commented on how nice my kids were (now all grown), I'd say, Thank you, but they weren't born that way.
    One of my favorite sayings is, "Slow obediance is no obediance."
    Am I wrong, but sometimes it seems kids at the western events are more polite than the English riders.


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