After raising our first batch of chickens this spring, the women of the household informed the men in no uncertain terms that using the sewing room for brooding chicks was a one-time-only deal, and that another solution would have to be found before another batch was started. Chris’s friend Jacob uses a small standalone A-frame structure for his chicks and is happy with it, so we decided to copy it.
I drove Chris over to the Ellises’ farm one afternoon and sat in the car reading while he spent an hour using a notepad and a digital camera to study the A-frame inside and out. Later I printed out the photographs for him. This morning he handed me a parts list, which I took to a nearby home improvement superstore and spent two hours filling. (I have a renewed appreciation for the cost of a sturdy wooden structure.) When I got home Chris unloaded the lumber and other parts into the basement. Not too long from now I expect to watch him construct our own A-frame brooder.
I’m pleased that Chris is able (and, even better, willing) to take on important jobs like this. And I think more and more about how he is quickly becoming a man, and what we might need to change around here to acknowledge that change, and how little we have in the way of guidance for managing the transition. He doesn’t get paid for his work—and I don’t want to pay him, I want him to have an appropriate amount of control over (and access to) the family wealth, and to thereby be encouraged to work to increase that wealth. He isn’t being prepared to strike out on his own, and I don’t want him to do that, I want him to begin to lead the family economy in new directions, directions that will satisfy him and employ his talents fully and spur him on. He doesn’t bear the responsibility of making this agrarian enterprise work—I do—but I want him to see his own future in it, the future well being of his wife and children and their children after them.
In six months Chris will be eighteen. That doesn’t scare me as much now as I thought it would, but it will still be a momentous occasion for all of us. Our family has changed directions so many times over the years, every time in an effort to provide a better path for the children to follow. But to change directions again at this point would mean that we’ve failed in a major way. Each change we made was with the understanding that the children would have to scramble to make up for lost time, the time they could have had if we had been right from the beginning.
Chris has had to scramble more than most, having endured these course corrections at a later age. Who would have thought just eighteen months ago that he would embrace the life of a farmer, even begin to take the lead for the family in many ways? It wasn’t an inclination of his back then, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he balked. Instead, he threw himself into it dliigently, and found that he was good at it, and even enjoyed it. And I think he threw himself into it for two reasons: he knew it was important to the family; and he knew that we would support and honor his efforts no matter how things turned out.
As it happens, things turned out well. We couldn’t have been certain of that eighteen months ago, but we had poured ourselves into figuring it out, and were not so much confident that we could make it work as we were convinced that we had to make it work. Similarly, we don’t know for certain that our efforts will succeed, but we are convinced that they have to succeed for the sake of the family, and so we pursue them as thoughtfully and diligently as possible.