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Scarlett at age 1 1/2 holding one of her kittens. (Amanda Radke/Special to Agweek)

Farm life teaches tough lessons

Parenting isn't always easy, but it's always an adventure.

My husband Tyler and I are blessed with two beautiful and healthy children — Scarlett (age 3) and Thorne (age 18 months), with a third on the way in May 2018.

Just like we grew up as farm kids, our brood will be raised the same way. They'll learn to pitch manure, bale hay, calve cows, vaccinate, fix fence and whatever else we can find to keep them busy, to teach them the value of hard work and to have fun together as a family.

I can guarantee every day on the ranch won't always be Instagram worthy, but we'll make memories and hopefully build a business together — one that will support our growing family and become a lasting legacy for the next generation.

Farm and ranch life is an amazing avenue to raise kids, but it doesn't come without challenges.

Take for example, the drama that unfolded last week in the barn while doing our evening chores. We try to get our toddlers involved as much as we can; however, since they are so young, their primary "job" is feeding the barn cats.

Each day, Scarlett (with some help from her little brother) will fill up the cats' tin pan with feed and call their names to come and eat.

"Here, Marshmallow. Here, Pumpkin. Here, Penny. Here, Sunny. Here, Dennis. Time to eat," she'll chant in her usual sing-song manner.

They always come running, but on this particular day, Dennis was nowhere to be seen.

And that's when the water works started.

"Where is my Dennis?" she asked me, looking up at me with big blue eyes. A crocodile tear dripped slowly down her cheek.

Tyler, hearing the dramatic sobbing from the barn, came to check up on us and to make sure the kids were okay. I filled him in on the situation, and he whispered to me, "I think Dennis may be no more."

For a brief minute, I thought desperately about how we could replace Scarlett's beloved black cat with a new one. Maybe she wouldn't notice the switch up, and everything would be okay. I could tell her Dennis went on vacation and would be back soon. Or I could be honest. And that's the route I chose.

As best as I could explain to a 3½ -year-old, I told Scarlett that sometimes we have to say goodbye to animals because sometimes life happens. Trying to teach the circle of life to a little kid isn't the easiest, but I reminded her that she was doing a wonderful job of taking care of her cats. I also pointed out that Sunny, our oldest cat in the barn, was due to have kittens again soon.

My brief talk seemed to calm her down, and soon she was planning names for her new kittens. I'm sure we will have this talk again the next time a calf dies or when Tyler brings home pheasants or a deer from his latest hunting trip. It's not easy, but it's our reality living on a farm.

As parents, we want to buffer our kids from disappointment and hurt; however, living on a working cattle ranch is full of disappointment. Sometimes we lose a cow, a drought kills our crop or the markets suddenly drop the week we sell calves.

In agriculture, just like in life, we can't control everything. If we can teach our kids from a young age that life is sometimes harsh, it will hopefully prepare them to be the best versions of themselves, so they can face life's challenges with a brave face and the tenacity to keep moving forward.

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