“Mommy!!!!” my daughter squeaked with joy, “Can we please take Chicky home?”
On our annual fall trip to Amish country, my daughters cannot wait to jump out of the car and play with the animals at the farm we visit. Brianne has a giant tender spot in her heart for animals, and as precious as it is, we cannot adopt every animal she wants to add to the family. But, oh, how I wish we could. It’s amazing to watch my kid light up like that, and awful having to watch it break.
“He’s only ten dollars, Mom!” she continued to plead.
“Sweetheart,” I tried to explain, “Chicky needs a coop and a chicken run… and it’s about to be winter. We can’t take Chicky home.”
The tears that ran down those beautiful cheeks broke my heart as we pulled away from the farm.
“Chicky…” she cried, “I love you, Chicky.”
It seriously broke my heart. My tears are fresh as I write this.
“Let’s move to a farm, then, Mom,” she reasoned, “so we can take Chicky home.”
“I’m so sorry you’re sad,” I said, as I squeezed her hand.
I sat in the backseat with her as we pulled away from the farm, watching her little heart break and those crocodile tears stream down her face.
It’s the hardest part of parenting… knowing when to say no. When is it warranted? When is it necessary? When is it for their safety? When am I just saying “no” as a product of my own fear?
Clearly, I know nothing about raising a chicken. But I made a promise to my weepy seven-year-old that I would do some research for her to find out how we could raise a chicken. I found out a few things. First, chickens can’t share the same living space as humans. I was sold at “because of the odor.” On top of that, we have a cat, and I’m not about to add the stress of natural instinct to kill to a baby chicken to my eleven-year-old cat… who’s holding on by a thread.
Second, chickens need a lot of attention. They need to be checked on five times a day.
“That’s actually do-able,” I thought, “and might be a great lesson in responsibility.”
I can’t get my children to learn the value of doing chores for the life of me. Maybe if their pet’s life was at risk, it would be good motivation to take care of it. (Yes, I considered a back up chicken.)
Lastly, when baby chicks start to grow, they need a chicken run to go out and play in the sunshine. I never knew what a chicken run was. Didn’t know chickens need sunshine, but it makes sense. After all, so do we. This last bit is a problem, though. We don’t have a barn, and it’s too cold in the winter to have a chicken outside… or even in the garage, in my opinion. I’d feel so bad; it’s freezing out there in the winter.
“Mom,” Brianne asked the very next morning, “did you do some research to figure out how Chicky can come live here?”
“Yep,” I assured her, “I sure did.”
I sat her down and took her through the list of things I learned. She was still sad, but understood why we couldn’t bring Chicky home right now.
“Great!” she exclaimed, after thinking for a bit. “We can bring a Chicky home in the spring!”
Thank the good Lord for friends that will help me get her signed up for 4H.
“How are you going to use your love for animals for good, if you get to raise a baby chick next year?” I asked my sweet girl.
We decided that since we’d have eggs from the chickens, that we could give them to the food pantry or to the soup kitchen in our area. I tucked her in that night with dreams of a hot pink chicken coop… and little chickens dropping eggs to cook for breakfast. She even inspired her little sister to want a “teeny tiny bunny” to raise.
We may have some fresh eggs to pass out next summer, and a relative of the Easter Bunny as a part of the family.
No, I’m not going to tell my daughter not to be sad over leaving Chicky at the farm. I’m going to acknowledge her feelings and climb into the backseat to comfort her.
Why can’t she raise a chicken? Because I don’t know how? It seems a tad unfair to hold her back based upon my limitations. Not me. I’m going to Google, “how to raise a baby chicken.” Every time.
And you know what? I’ll put her in 4H, let her raise all the animals she wants, support her, and cheer her on every step of the way.
All because I’m willing to take a step back.
It’s not my agenda that’s important right now. She’s seven. I get one chance to show my daughter that when God touches your heart, you go for it. That’s how you know where He wants you to go.
“But test everything; hold fast to what is good.” 1Thessalonians 5:21
Pray about it. Ask God. For her, it’s “ask Mom,” and I’ll show her how to ask God.
There’s nothing more disheartening… adult or child… than being told what not to feel. Nothing more crushing than having a dream that’s not allowed to grow.
“I’m going to sit in the backseat with you, Brianne,” I told her as we left her Great Grandma’s house.
Saying goodbye to her grandparents after they came to visit for Grandparent’s Day at school, I caught my daughter’s glance and felt the squeeze of her hand. As we pulled away from the house, sending my parents back off to Florida until Christmas, my daughter broke down into those giant crocodile tears. Her younger sister followed suit, and I wasn’t far behind.
“Papa… Papa… Papa…” my little five-year-old wailed, demanding I text her Grandpa sad faces and broken hearts.
Sitting in the backseat, one arm around each heartbroken little girl, I prayed.
“It’s OK to be sad, sweethearts,” I told them, “I’m here for you… I’ll always be here for you… and it’s ok to cry.”
It’s going to be okay.
Not because we left Chicky at the farm. That’s sad.
Not because Grammy and Papa live in Florida now. That makes us sad sometimes.
It’s going to be okay because we hold tight to the joy of the Lord… even in sadness.
Nothing can steal joy from the lives of those who love Jesus… my heart is guarded by God and Jesus is there in the backseat to squeeze my hand in hard moments and remind me.
“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
Article originally published on sunnyand80.org. Reprinted with permission.
Megs is a stay-at-home mom and blogger at http://sunnyand80.org, where she writes about everyday life within the love of Christ.
Publication date: April 4, 2016