Times of drought are nothing new. Droughts have been happening since almost forever. If you remember your Sunday School lessons about Joseph, you will remember it was a seven-year drought that brought him and his dad and brothers back together. But I digress….
Any time we start experiencing drought-like conditions or the news shows pictures of fields burnt to a crisp by the not summer sun, or we hear about farmers having to get creative in keeping their livestock fed because the grass is gone because the rain is gone, too, I think back to a day several years ago when things were drier than dry. We’d not had rain for months, and we were running out of grass for the sheep to eat. Well, actually, it was dead grass, aka, uncut, unbaled hay.
Anyway, we, as in my husband, myself, and one of our daughters, were getting ready to move the sheep from one field to another. This required lowering the wires on a section of the fence, then leading/herding the sheep across that section onto new ground. In the best of circumstances everything went like clockwork. Occasionally, one or two ewes, or a confused lamb or two (or three) would put a proverbial fly in our ointment, but even then, with the help of our trusty herd dog and the fact that the sheep trusted us, things went pretty well.
But on this particular day we were dealing with something completely different. It wasn’t that the sheep didn’t want to go where we wanted them to. It wasn’t because some of the lambs were confused and didn’t want to follow the rest of the flock. No, on this particular day, most of the sheep wouldn’t cross over because they couldn’t cross over. In a time span of less than twenty-four hours (which was when we’d last fed and watered they were so hot and so needy for relief from the drought and heat, that they were literally too weak to walk. Some tried and succeeded. Some tried but fell. Some dropped dead in their tracks. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen and been a part of, and an image I will never be able to erase from my mind.
As the three of us hurriedly tried to decide how best to handle the situation, our son, who was working nearby, drove by and saw what the situation was. He stopped along the highway, jumped out of his work truck, and started helping his dad. They literally picked up the ewes (they were heavy despite being in need of food) and carried them across the fence. My daughter and I quickly started doing the same with the lambs and worked together to get some of the lighter ewes across. Once the job was complete, we started treating them as best we could and made provisions to keep the situation from getting worse.
Now, in case you are wondering, here’s what you need to know about this situation/event and how it pertains to you as a parent or grandparent.
One: The drought didn’t happen overnight, but the rapid decline of the sheep came on suddenly. We had been doing everything possible to that point to keep them safe and healthy despite the drought and heat, but even our best wasn’t enough after so many days of temperatures over 100 degrees.
Two: Those that died were obviously beyond saving. But we didn’t even consider giving up on any of them that were still breathing. None of them were put into a ‘too far gone’ category to care about. None were left to suffer. Not one.
Three: We did things to save the sheep we a) didn’t know we were capable of doing and b) never imagined having to do. But we did it because that’s what needed to be done.
Four: It was a team-effort. There was no time nor no need to ‘what if’ the situation, point fingers, or do the woulda-shoulda’-coulda routine. We worked together for the good of those who were in need, namely, the sheep.
Five: Our efforts paid off. Other than the four or five who died before getting them to the other field, we only lost one more after the move. The rest of them (a little over three hundred) recovered completely and went on to be thriving, productive members of the flock.
Now here’s WHY you need to know those things.
One: Your kids don’t ‘come apart’ overnight. Depression, eating disorders, fear of bullies, academic problems…whatever, rarely hit them out of nowhere. There are symptoms and signs that let you know things are not as they should be. So, watch for them. Monitor them. Be aware of them. Be proactive in knowing about and addressing the issues, letting your kids know you care and are on their side.
Two: Sometimes your child (usually one in their teens or just out of high school) will refuse all help. They choose to ‘die’ (in the figurative sense, only, we hope) before they will accept help from anyone. BUT TAKE HEART, parents, because more often than not, even if you have to carry your kids (literally or figuratively speaking) to get help, that’s what you need to do. They need to know you are not giving up on them and you aren’t going to let them give up on themselves.
Three: Sometimes being a parent (and grandparent) requires you to do things you didn’t think you were capable of doing or that you would ever have to do. Carrying them…dragging them…coercing them…begging them…taking legal action to force them to get help sometimes ends up being your only option. Sitting up with them all night. Taking the door to their bedroom off its hinges. Putting motion detectors on the doors and windows of your house. Changing schools. Whatever it takes to keep them safe—that’s what you do.
Four: Sometimes parents realize they cannot help their children on their own—that they need someone whom they trust to step in and parent with them or temporarily in place of them. Sometimes kids need to be put in an environment where they feel safer, where they know they cannot manipulate the parents or parental figure. Youth pastors, counselors, grandparents, or older parents you trust who have been-there-done-that are all valuable resources of help and encouragement you should not be afraid or embarrassed to call on.
Five: Don’t give up because your hard work and unconditional love will pay off. It may not happen right away. It may not happen in the exact ways you think it will. But don't ever forget that love never fails.
So, just like times of drought and famine weather-wise are nothing new. Neither are times of trouble and angst when it comes to raising kids. The key, therefore, is to be proactive, to not give up, and to keep your heart and mind focused on what matters most, which is saving those you love so that they can be the amazing, wonderful people they were created to be.