Every parent struggles with teaching responsibility to their child.  I’ve realized it takes a concerted effort, an implemented plan, and lots of adjustments.

I will admit that homesteading has afforded my children unparalleled opportunities for learning all kinds of life lessons in very tangible ways.

For instance, last year, Mae Mae was given a little lamb whom she named Toby.  He was cute and followed her everywhere.  Mae Mae was bottle feeding him and taking very good care of him.

One morning, she went out to the barn and came running back into the house crying.  Toby was dead.

There was no explanation for the bloat.  My kids have learned that death happens at times for reasons we will never know.  My kids have learned how to grieve and they understand that the process is different for everyone.  They have compassion and a tenderness for others because each of them has lost a pet very close to them – some of my kids even cradling the animal in their arms when it breathed its last breath.

But this particular day was a very special day.  Mae Mae and I went to visit a friend’s farm in Covington.

I’d received an email that my friend had a bottle-baby, little ewe and she wanted to give it to Mae Mae.

My friend knew about her loss from the previous year.

This was our first time to her farm and we had a wonderful visit.  Even her guard dogs were happy to see us!

As with most of our new animals, we documented the first visit.

The responsibility of this little lamb, Emma, was now handed over to Mae Mae.

She was responsible for all the daily feedings – every 4 to 5 hours- with no complaining.

Mae Mae was to make sure that she noticed anything unusual in Emma’s behaviour.  That meant that she had to spend a lot of time with her so she would recognize the difference between normal behaviour and unusual behaviour.

Mae Mae was responsible to make sure Emma had a warm place to live,

and that Emma’s place was kept clean and sanitary.

Mae Mae had to take time to play with Emma every day and make sure she was exercised since she would be living by herself for a while.

She had to remember that Emma was just a baby and would put anything into her mouth.

Be sure to keep harmful objects out of her pen.

And most importantly, pay close attention to Miss Lynn’s instructions about Emma’s care and her history.

Emma was born in the pasture on one of the coldest nights in January.  Wet and shivering, she survived the night and was found in the morning – her mother had abandoned her.  But Emma’s a fighter and with tender love and warmth from Lynn, she pulled through.

Mae Mae must be careful to protect her…

keep her safe…

and comfort her when she’s afraid.

Teach Emma that she, Mae Mae, is her new mommy.

Mae Mae must let her know that she loves her very much and others do to…

There is a pride and a confidence given to children when they are given responsibilities,

especially when that responsibility is another life.

A life that is so totally dependent on another for it’s well-being, care, and safety.

There is a special bond that develops between a baby animal and the one who is responsible for its every day needs.

The gift that Mae Mae will receive back for all her care, attention and responsibilities….?

The life lesson that no text book could ever teach a child?

Unconditional love.