“She’s probably the last little one we’ll have at harvest,” my father-in-law said, looking at Nora in her car seat. She smiled at me, her cheeks covered in chocolate, leftover from dinner in the field. I could tell from a distance that her hands were still sticky.
The last eight years have been full of babies and toddlers in the field at harvest. Kool-aid mustaches and dirty hands. The kids climbing into tractors and playing in the grain. Juggling meals to the field and changing diapers. The evenings ending with dirty bath water swirling down the drain.
I’d been so busy trying to get through each day of this harvest I hadn’t even thought about what it will look like not to have little ones during this busy season.
Part of me wishes I could go back to the summer of 2014 when I was pregnant for the first time—my belly swelling along with the August heat. Harvest was still new to me that year, and having a baby was even more foreign.
But what would I even say to that bright-eyed me? Soak it all in! Enjoy all the moments! The time will go by fast!
Two summers ago, Nora was a newborn, spending most of harvest in a baby wrap or her car seat. I toted her from place to place; she was content with her pacifier and unaffected by the loud noises of the equipment in the field.
Last summer, she was walking, but not quite running. She still fit in the infant car seat, and I could move her around easily.
Now, I can’t take my eyes off her. Wherever her two older siblings go, she wants to go too. She climbs the ladder of the tractor and attempts to climb into the loaded trailer to play in the grain. She says, “Go harvest!” whenever I talk about going to the field.
So much of farming feels out of my control—especially during the busy seasons. The fields must be cut on time, and the weather cannot be changed. My husband works longer hours than usual and the days of the week all run together. The hours at home are deafening with the kids’ chatter and fighting. But also, it’s the most alone and isolated I feel all year.
In these moments, I lash out at the kids because it’s the only thing I feel I have control over.
I look back now and wish I hadn’t willed away the time to speed up the last eight harvests. I wish I had more patience with the kids at bedtime. And that I would have remembered that it’s a short season—not only a season of farming but also a short chunk of their childhood.
But even knowing it’s a short season, I cannot deny how overwhelmed I get during harvest. The never-ending loudness that comes with three children while cooking dinner for a group, then getting the food to and from the field, returning home to put the kids to bed alone, and cleaning up the kitchen.
I know I could have done it better, but I can’t pretend it’s not a challenge.
I don’t know what it’s like to grow up taking naps in a combine buddy seat or digging through a trailer loaded with grain. (I hope to never find out what it feels like to have grain in my underwear and in the toes of my shoes.) I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in the middle of nowhere on a farm and ranch, but this is the only life my kids have known.
I’ve heard from several people who grew up on a farm saying harvest meals are one of their favorite memories. I’d like to think their moms felt similar to how I feel now. And I pray there’s enough grace to cover my imperfections and that my kids’ memories of harvest will be happy ones.
I often can’t see the magic through the chaos. Instead, the magic comes in the memories. Scrolling through photos on my computer, I see pictures of me with a little one on my hip, their face lit up with delight. The warm sun shone on our faces, the golden wheat shimmering against a bright blue sky. I can’t help but notice I’m smiling too.
So for today, I’ll keep taking pictures of the kids in the field. I’ll leave their faces dirty a little longer. I’ll let the dishes sit in the sink while I read one more story. I’ll apologize to the kids when I get upset. I’ll forgive myself and try again tomorrow.
And I hope that’s enough.