When we see little boys tinkering with wrenches, we think, 'oh, maybe he'll become a mechanic'. Or when we see a little girl pretending to fix a doll's owies, we wonder if she'll become a nurse. And sometimes the roles are reversed - little girls like to play with tools and little boys like to play with dolls.
As a parent, it's hard not to wonder about where your child's proclivities will lead him or her in life. It's even more difficult to refrain from inadvertently influencing these young behaviors by encouraging boys to play with tools and girls to play with dolls. But, I believe, it's important that we allow our children to follow their own course in life.
Nonetheless, sometimes it's fun to speculate about our children's future careers.
When Dan is playing with tools, he talks about becoming a 'fixer-man'. But after last weekend, when he clocked himself in the back of the head with the claw of a real hammer, I'm not so sure about that career path.
If I had to guess at this point in his life, I'd say he's going to become a politician. He loves to talk, especially to a crowd. And he's got a precocious understanding of how to interact with people of all ages. He's always kissing babies and shaking hands with adults while saying, "Nice to meet you."
One afternoon, Dan proved that he really does have potential as a politician.
I was scraping stalls while Dan followed with his plastic shovel. When I slowed down to clean a gutter grate, Dan caught up and, before I knew it, he was standing there, leaning on his shovel, and giving me instructions on how to clean the grate.
"First, you push this poop this way. Then, you push that poop that way. Then ..." he continued while I half listened.
After another couple minutes of being told how to do the job, I reached my limit. I stopped cleaning stalls long enough to level with him.
"Are you the boss here?" I asked.
"No," he answered immediately, "you are."
Good answer, I thought.
But then a half-second later he followed that with, "But I'm the boss of shoveling poop!"
Not only does he claim to know how to handle poop, Dan has also developed strategies for evading assignments, as was illustrated one night at the dinner table.
Me: "You can't have any ice cream until you finish your applesauce."
Dan: "Dad, will you eat my applesauce for me?"
Me: "No, Dan, you have to eat your applesauce."
I turned back to the stove and heard whispering behind me. It was Dan asking Glen in a whisper to secretly eat his applesauce. A few minutes passed before I asked again.
Me: "Did you finish your applesauce yet?"
Dan: "Yes! (Pause.) But I don't want you to look at my bowl."
Both Glen and I had to stifle our giggles.
With each episode, I'm more and more convinced that one day we'll see Dan on a campaign trail of some sort or another.
It's a little harder to guess about Monika's future, but I think there may be a gig as a princess somewhere along the way.
Glen starts milking in the front of the barn and works his way to the back. On the nights when I finish my chores before Glen finishes milking, Dan, Monika and I make a point of going to the back of the barn to tell Glen we're going to the house.
As we walk back up to the front of the barn, Monika says, "Good night, cow," over and over while she walks. What never fails to make me smile, though, is that while she's walking and talking to the cows, she's waving at the same time.
She's got this big princess wave. The kind of wave you see from princesses riding in parades - you know, elbow-elbow-wrist-wrist. And she waves to the cows on the south side of the barn with her right hand. Then she switches and waves to the cows on the north side of the barn with her left hand.
I promise: I didn't teach her how to wave like a princess. I'm not sure where she learned how, but she does it perfectly. Which is something of a surprise, because she's far from being a girly-girl.
The other day, when Dan brought two millipedes from the sandbox into the kitchen, Monika wouldn't leave him alone until she got to hold one. And last night during milking, she insisted on holding the cows' tails for me so I wouldn't get swatted.
Maybe someday she'll be a dairy princess telling that story on stage. Or maybe not.
All I know for sure is that we'll encourage Monika and Dan to follow their own dreams and hope that their experiences growing up on a dairy farm prepare them for whatever it is in life they choose to do.
Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have two children - Dan, 4, and Monika, 2. When she's not parenting or farming, she's writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.