We are headed into our 10th year as a 4-H family and we still don't have all the kinks worked out. Sometimes I think 4-H is a lot like childbirth – you forget between each child how much work, and yes pain, the labor of preparing for a child/week at the fair is.
If you had a better memory, there's a chance you wouldn't sign up for it again.
I am fully aware that not every 4-H family is like ours. As a matter of fact, most are probably nothing like ours. Projects look so exciting and fun in January, but on July 1? Not so much. In January, projects like recycled crafts seem easy and exciting after browsing Pinterest. Do you have any idea how many muffin recipes are on that website?
Regardless, I have tried to teach my kids that you not only win graciously, but that you have to lose graciously as well. Like most things in life, a lot of fair decisions come down to opinions – and while you are standing in front of a 4-H judge with your calf or your muffins, what the judge says that day goes. While it may just be his or her opinion, he is the judge. You either do it for the fun and experience or you miss out.
With the right attitude, you win experiences and memories and lots of good stories to tell later in life – even when you lose.
Let's visit that for a second. I once turned in Polaroid prints on a photography poster. Back in the day, there was no one-hour printing in the camera world. Film took a good week to process. My Mom had been on me to take my pictures, but I am a professional procrastinator now and obviously started training at a young age.
Finally, a few days before the project was due, she handed me the Polaroid camera loaded with one clip of film, which was exactly 10 pictures. "You better not mess any up," she told me. "That is all the film I have."
I ended up with 10 Polaroid pictures of my sister posing around the yard of our house. Needless to say I didn't win!
As you read this we are in the midst of judging. While I am trying to keep a positive attitude, it is so much harder to watch your kids' hard work be judged. But I will be repeating to myself a lot next week: "It was my idea for the kids to participate in 4-H and show cattle, It was my idea for the kids to participate in 4-H and show cattle…"
Now that is not to say there isn't some venting going on in the pick-up truck on the way home from the fairgrounds late at night, but ultimately the bigger picture will prevail.
We don't plan to walk away with any banners or pretty purple ribbons; if we do, it is simply a bonus to the friends, memories and lessons of the week at the Johnson County Fair.
The opinions of Jennifer Campbell are not necessarily those of Indiana Prairie Farmer or the Penton Farm Progress Group.