There are no rules at the ranch - Baby Steps in High Heels

Friday, April 8, 2016

There are no rules at the ranch

This weekend, we will visit my family ranch to celebrate The Boy’s birthday, and we will be back there again in a few weeks for a larger celebration for Husband as well.

All of our talking about these trips to the ranch has prompted my daughter to mention, quite frequently, how much she wishes she was already there. In one of these conversations, she emphatically announced, “I can’t wait until we get to the ranch! There are no rules at the ranch.”

I laughed out loud. Scoffed, might be a better choice of words.

No rules? I’m not sure I know a single person in the world who has more rules than my dad. He has expectations for behavior – we should be responsible, respectful, and well mannered. Whether we are 3-years-old or thirty, we behave. And, we carry our own weight. We do our part to take care of things before the fun begins. This is his way, and it has always been his way.

There are most definitely rules at the ranch. What in the world was my girl talking about?

Then it hit me. Hard.

She wasn’t exactly looking for an absence of rules.

She was longing for the freedom to just be. To be herself. To slow down, connect, and not be jostled about from one agenda item to the next.

She didn’t need to evade responsibility.

She actually really loves to help, when we have the time and patience to let her. When we, as parents, can slow down long enough to offer her the opportunity to try new things, even if she doesn’t get them right the first time.

At home, in our busy everyday life, we rush from task to task, home to work and back again. We are up before six, gulping a few sips of coffee before we scramble to make breakfast, pack lunches, dress everyone and get to school and work on time.

The end of the day is more of the same … homework, dinner, bath, and those all-so-important bedtime routines. We rarely collapse on the couch before 8:00, exhausted and burned out.

We rush. She watches us rush. We hurry her along so as not to deviate from our schedule. We are not people who are ever late. To anything. But to make that work, we rush.

The only place that Husband and I ever truly slow down is at the ranch. I literally feel a sense of calm wash over me as we hit the county line. I don’t mind the drive. It’s just over an hour. And, of course the kids are usually hungry or thirsty or have to pee. But I don’t mind, because my mind is already channeling the calm and quiet that lie ahead.

And, although I love that my kids find the same sense of calm at the ranch that I do, I also worry that they already feel the need to seek out a retreat. My mommy heart is so heavily burdened by the fact that our children are feeling the same stressors that we adults do – being busy all the time, feeling like enough is never enough.

At the same time, I’m also struck by the irony of my child finding freedom in the place that I’ve always felt had the most rules. The difference, though, I am realizing now is that the rules of the ranch are character rules. There, we are our best selves. We work with our hands. We make food from scratch. We have conversations that carry on for hours. We laugh. The kids help bake and garden. We have time to include them in what we are doing. We are not in a hurry. We are relaxed.

We are a family. 

The rules of the ranch are the rules we should live by every day. We take care of each other. We take care of ourselves. We slow down long enough to connect to the people we love. And when we live by these rules, we actually feel a sense of freedom that is, sadly, becoming more and more difficult to come by in today’s busy world.

It’s not that we need to rid our lives of rules to feel freedom. Rather, we must let the busy world fade away and connect to a simpler way of being, a way that not only has rules, but requires them. These rules, though, are different. They are character rules, rules that are rooted goodness. They are designed to connect us to each other, and possibly even more so, to ourselves. 

Thank God for my sweet, free-spirited, life-loving, high energy girl for pointing out to me what I should have already known so well: that the best life is one that allows us to be our most authentic selves without ever feeling restricted ... and that the only rules that matter are ones than don't hold us back from that life. Rather, they set us free to live it to the fullest. 

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