September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Not all questions require an answer

By Natalie Schmitt- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

When the kids were little, they swore I had eyes in the back of my head. I knew exactly where they were and what they were doing two rooms away. I could holler at them by name to put the tractor down before they hurled it across the room to their farming partner. I knew exactly who jumped off the couch and smashed the Lincoln Log cabin. I could do all of this while I was washing dishes with my back to the living room. The kids thought I had a special or a spooky kind of "gift."
What the kids didn't realize was that I really could see what they were doing. A strategically placed mirror facing the couch offered me a view into the living room where the kids were playing. The mirror would reflect the image to the kitchen window and I could "watch" what they were doing. Of course it was generally the same kids flying off the couch creating the racket in the living room, so the odds were in my favor to "see" what happened.
Because my family thinks I have this "gift" and I have never discouraged this notion. They still think I should know where everyone is at all times. I try, but when I'm in the barn milking, I'm just a bit out of range for my radar skills to keep track of everyone with pin-point accuracy. Inevitably someone will come in the barn asking me the question, "Where are the kids?" For the past 45 minutes the only view of the world I have seen has been limited to the white barn walls and the back side of Holstein cows. If the kids are not standing directly outside one of two barn windows, I am blind as to where they could be or what they could possibly be doing. I guess the eyes in the back of my head have grown dim as the kids have grown older. It frustrates me when I can't answer a question.
This brings me to the point of this article. When is a question a question requiring an answer or a question requiring silence? Learning when a question requires an answer or just a supportive nod is difficult to decipher. I haven't quite figured out all of the clues as to what my response should be. My natural reaction is to give an answer to any question posed to me. My first child syndrome is to please people with my knowledge. This reaction can get me in trouble by offering way too much information. When we were audited a few years back, our tax guy strongly suggested we keep our answers simple and to the point. We didn't need to share any additional information with the auditor. Our audit occurred about the same time President Clinton was answering delicate questions by splitting hairs on definitions. He was answering only the question asked and offering no additional information as well. This strategy works. We came through the audit with flying colors and Clinton wasn't impeached.
I am learning not all questions require an answer. Grammatically there are rhetorical questions that pose more of a statement than require a response. In the barn, some questions are thrown out in the wind to clear the cobwebs clouding our judgment. No direct answer is required but thinking about the question can help to shed light on many other unspoken questions and possible solutions. Sometimes questions spoken out loud are a way for us to sort out and solve our own problems.
The kids have a different perspective of when a question is not a question but a polite command. I'll ask them, "can you please bring up the straw?" The kids will look at me and depending upon their mood, they will do the job right away or return my volley with a question of their own. "Is that a question with options or a command? Do I have a choice?" No, it is a polite way of telling them to get the job done instead of always ordering them around. I'm trying to give them the sense of making decisions to take action. I think the politically correct term is building up their self-esteem by choosing to get the job done.
This is the time of year when many questions are asked and the search begins for answers. What is the future for our farm? Who is going to come home? Who is going to leave? What projects do we start and what projects do we put on hold? What changes do we need to make to keep things going or make the job easier? Where do we want to be at the end of the year? What bulls should we be using? Are we going overboard with genomics in developing our future herds? What are milk prices going to do? What will feed costs be? Will fuel prices go down? Simple questions do not always have simple answers, but they open the door to possibilities.
Natalie, Mark and his brother, Al, Schmitt farm together near Rice, Minn. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are great help around the farm and are pushing Natalie out of several jobs. Therefore she is thankful to have something else to do. For questions or comments please e-mail Natalie at [email protected].

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