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The Best Gift I have Given My Children

The Christmas rush is over. The parties are past, the concerts and practices are done. The hustle and bustle has come to a halt. When the chaos of the holidays ended I escaped to the calm and quiet of the barn. There was work to be done.  I needed to catch up on my chores. My four legged friends needed my attention just like every other day. As I made my way to the barn that morning I started to think about what was the gift I was happiest to give my children? 

Just like every Christmas, there were gifts on lists for my kids. The overpriced shoes, the newest games, the special sports equipment they couldn’t afford to buy themselves with their summer job cash. They are good kids. Motivated, kind, and hard working. They are responsible, trustworthy and dependable. They deserve everything they want for Christmas. Did we manage to give them the gifts my mom heart felt they deserved this Christmas?

As I dressed in my barn clothes to go do barn chores that morning, I didn’t ask for help. I figured the kids were happy to be home in their cozy pajamas enjoying their new gifts. I would sneak out and let them skip the cold morning chores. But, minutes after I hit the barn, I realized that they both had followed behind me. Both dressed in their new work coats ready to help. I watched my children tend to the horses, the chickens, the barn kitties, and the dog, I had to pause to think. I was taken back.

I could do the chores myself, but they didn’t let me. They worked happily, with joyful hearts. They stopped only to spend a quiet moment with whichever horse was being nosey.

They sang Christmas songs while they shoveled stalls, pushed wheel barrows and carried shavings. They chatted about how much they enjoyed visiting with family this Christmas while they threw hay, filled waters, and grained horses.  This is who they are. They are helpers, hard workers, and doers. They are caregivers, team players, and my kind of cool!  
Watching them that morning, I started to think that perhaps it means more to them than chores to cross off the list.

 Before they go to school, go to practice or open gifts on Christmas morning they know there are chores to be done.  They do it without question day in and day out. Not because they wished and asked for it all, but because it is what they are accustomed to. They were raised with it, it is a part of their life.  It’s a part of our family. My son doesn’t “have a horse in the barn”, but he never reminds us that this work isn’t his job. We are a team and whatever work goes with the life we have chosen is ours to share.  The gift I am happiest to give them has nothing to do with something I can buy off of their Christmas list.  As they get older I can see that the barn, the chores, and the life they live every day is the best gift we will ever give our kids. And I hope the barn brings them the same peace and sense of calm that it gives me.

It’s not glamorous, or fancy. I can be hard and inconvenient. It can be frustrating and overwhelming. There are no sick days or mental health breaks. There is no finish line and excuses don’t get the job done.  There are no trophies or prizes. There is good and bad, heartbreak, broken fingers, and laughter and joy. But, they are learning to cope with it all. 
I’m so thankful for the the lessons the barn has taught my children. A grand gift that only those who live it can fully understand. Responsibility, persistence, patience, tenacity, commitment. Unconditional love disguised in work boots and hiding behind worn work gloves. 

What they have learned will suit them so well as they become adults. In their work, at school, in their relationships, their marriages, with their own families one day. I pray they look back on their childhood and are thankful for the things the barn has taught them and the gift their Dad and I have always worked so hard to share with them! 

As I look back on our holiday celebrations, I feel overwhelmed with the feeling that we, as a family, are beyond blessed with many wonderful things in life. But, as soon as the holiday hustle ended, and in the quiet of the barn on a winter morning I realized that the best gift I will ever give my children has nothing to do with their Christmas list and everything to do with the people they have become growing up in the barn.