GUEST COLUMN, Kim Baldwin, Kansas Farm Bureau

 

A few months ago, I registered my two children for two weeks of swimming lessons at our town’s pool. Registering my 8-year-old daughter for lessons was a nonnegotiable. She needs to continue learning skills that’ll help her keep her head above water while also gaining strength as a swimmer. My son, on the other hand, had a choice of taking lessons or not.

When I presented him with the option of lessons, I warned him that he’d probably be the oldest kid in his swim level. I told him I’d again register him for the highest level offered at the pool. He easily met all of the required swim skills in that same level last summer, so this would be more like a review rather than an assessment. I half thought he’d decide to pass on lessons because of my warning.

After a few minutes of contemplation, my son announced that if taking 45-minute swimming lessons guaranteed him pool time for two weeks, he’d do it!

Summer for my family is definitely spent a little differently than others. Yes, there’s guaranteed pool time in the form of swimming lessons for two weeks. Yes, there’s summer ball games with friends, and occasionally there’s a friend that can come over to play or spend the night. But summer for my family also means a steady flow of farmwork, and the kids are an active part of it all. Because of that, we generally experience long summer days and sleep hard at night before getting up and starting the day before it gets too hot.

Between wheat harvest, planting of fall crops, irrigation chores, checking livestock and debris cleanup following summer storms, my two kids will always have a different summertime story compared to their classmates.

There have been times I have questioned my decision to haul the kids to town every day for two weeks during our busiest time of the year. Scheduling swim lessons in the middle of winter would work better with our farming schedule. However, I have to remind myself they need to experience the joys of summer as children.

Yes, they need to understand the value of work. Yes, they need to be given responsibilities. Yes, they need to see that being part of a farming family includes helping when needed.

And honestly, leaving the farm and driving to town so the kids can get their guaranteed pool time also means that I have an opportunity to relax in the shade and read a book or listen to a podcast for 45 minutes by myself – something I might not do without this intentionally built-in time during the summer. It’s been a pleasant opportunity to pause and enjoy short breaks during an otherwise very busy time of the year.

The joys of summer can be had at any age, it’s just a matter of recognizing when the opportunity presents itself and making the time to take advantage of those moments.

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