Work is a tonic

Earlier this year my 6 year-old was going through a rough patch. Normally she’s a sweet, compliant child, but day after day she’d been yelling at her mother, stamping her feet, pouting, sullen, untalkative, pushing her little brother down … so on a Friday night, I told her come next morning, we were going to burn that right out of her.

Got her up early. We ate breakfast in the dark and went over to the farm. I needed to clear the pivot pit of all the elm saplings that had grown up the last few years. We stopped by the Merc on the way for a pair of kid work gloves. One of those miserable Nebraska winter days, no snow and 50 mph winds, so that the dust gritted in your teeth and the corn husks felt like fastballs when they smacked into you. Temp hovering in the single digits. I gave her a pair of shears and pointed out the lines of little elm saplings and said, go to work. Gave her no directions beyond that.

She worked without a single complaint for 3 hours in that blistering cold. Stacked the saplings up neat (neat as was possible in that wind) and hauled them over to the pickup. Then we hauled all those damn elms including the ones I cut down to the burn pile and returned to the pit to admire our work. She did a good job and I told her so.

Then we went into town to a local joint for a cheeseburger and a milkshake and talked about everything under the sun. And in the meantime, the little demon girl was gone. Burnt out.

Work’s a tonic.