Taking ranch kids off the ranch and into public is always risky, but a few ground rules smooth the way.
Raising ranch kids can lead to some eyebrow-raising moments when they venture off the ranch. The trouble is that the kids don’t do that often enough, so they aren’t town-broke. It’s like taking a fifth-ride colt to a horse show. They’re likely to do something unpredictable and potentially embarrassing.
This recently happened in a museum parking lot, prompting me to yell, “Stop! You can’t do that in public!”
“But I’m not used to being in public!” my son yelled back.
He had a point. Here are a few rules for being in public I need to work on with my kids.
You have to use indoor plumbing.
Yes, this one is mainly for the boys. My daughter has no problem locating and using a restroom, but my sons think that is way too much time to waste. They have cats to rope and bugs to catch; they can’t be bothered with running around looking for a danged ol’ indoor outhouse. John Wayne didn’t ride through the desert until he found a men’s room, and they don’t think they should, either.
But John Wayne didn’t go to the Phoenix Zoo on a crowded afternoon, so compromises must be made. We settled for “Use the restroom and the zoo management won’t kick us out.” It seemed fair.
Bring your pocket knife…
…but leave it in the truck if you’re going to jump on a trampoline, get in a water fight, or visit a courthouse. They get kinda bent out of shape about bringing weapons into the county jail, too, but that’s a story best told in person. I don’t want to put all my family’s past discrepancies in print.
Use your magic words.
“Please,” “thank you” and “excuse me,” go a long way when integrating small children into adult conversations. For example, my 7-year-old son, Milo, waited for a break in the conversation, then politely said “Excuse me” to the grown-up he wished to speak to. When the older cowboy looked down, Milo said, “You sure have a lot of nose hair.”
It’s hard to get mad at a well-mannered kid who speaks the truth. We all had a good laugh and realized the value of perspective.
Do NOT start a fight club…
…especially at Bible study. Yes, this is a true story. Yes, I was mortified. I apologized, the other parents were cool about it, and we all resumed our study of the book of Matthew. To be fair, Jesus did not explicitly say that children should not pair up and square off in the other room while their parents were discussing Scripture. You never know unless you try, right?
As a family, we emphasize the importance of wrestling with kids who are approximately your same height and weight. Take it easy on the little guys and don’t sit on anyone’s chest for too long. Most importantly — remember to take off your cowboy hat first. We don’t care if you win or lose, but don’t come home with a crumpled-up hat brim.