I grew up on a farm in a remote area of southern Minnesota.
My dad was a farmer. My grandpa was a farmer. My great-grandpa was a farmer. I could drive a tractor long before I could drive a car. I had a CB handle – Popcorn. My grandpa was The Kernel.
As a child I spent my days with my grandma while my mom worked and my dad and grandpa farmed. We made lunches for the guys and it was my job to call them in on the CB.
As I got older it was expected that I would participate in the farming chores. I started out with a hoe and a pair of gloves. I walked the rows of soybeans with my dad, grandpa, aunts and uncles pulling weeds. I learned early on the difference between a soybean plant and a button weed and a milk weed and rag weed and so many more.
We had an exceptionally good year at one point and a rider was purchased for the tractor. No longer did we have to walk the rows. We had comfy tractor seats to sit in and we sprayed poison on the weeds as my dad drove slowly up and down the rows. Up and out of the house as dawn was breaking and working sometimes until just before dusk.
The summer before my parents divorce I was 12 years old. I got my first “real” job. I was going to ride beans for a local farmer and get paid! I still rode for my dad that summer but my sister was old enough to take my place. I was able to branch out and earn some money for myself. $300 at the end of the summer. To a preteen that was a lifetime of savings. I was beyond excited!
Things were tough on the farm. Dad started a job working nights and was gone most of the night. Mom was working more than one job. We spent a lot of time with our grandparents. It was their sacrifice to help make ends meet. To get the bills paid.
The summer moved forward quickly, as summers are wont to do. At the end of the summer I got my check. At the end of the summer my check went to pay the bills.
That memory stands out in my mind more than many others. As an adult I can look back and see that my parents had no choice but to do what they did. I know that check likely kept the lights on or kept food on our table. At the time it was not an easily understood sacrifice.
I am the adult now. I get to decide the sacrifices that are made. It is my choice that all of the sacrifices belong to the adults in our family. It is my choice because that memory is so vivid and I don’t want my children to have that kind of vivid memory.
I resented my parents for a long time after that summer. I felt they owed me the money. It’s nearly impossibly to make a child understand things that only adults should have to experience.
I learned a lesson that summer at the cost of a positive relationship with my parents.