On my little plot of land, I have dairy goats and a flock of chickens. I have raised chicks from several different sources – the ones that come in the mail, the ones that hatch out under a hen, and some that I hatched in an incubator.
One of the big mistakes the novice chicken owner often makes when hatching that first batch of chicks is trying to “help.” A chick manages to crack open its shell, but then it just seems to get stuck. There it is, wet and cheeping, and the impulse of a compassionate person is to peel the egg shell back so the chick can get out.
Actually, that's the worst thing you can do. A chick that doesn't struggle and make its own way out of the shell is often too weak to survive. Something about the fight to emerge gives it the fight to live.
I've seen this with novice goatherds, too. On some of the goat forums online, I've seen people urge beginners with a goat in labor to “pull” a kid at the first sign of difficulty.
Honestly, in 30 years of raising goats I have only had one doe that needed assistance delivering a kid, and I actually was gone to town when it happened and only heard about it when I got back.
A few years ago, I filmed a goat giving birth and put it on YouTube. (Warning: Graphic images.) The birthing process is long and arduous.
Believe me, as one who has brought four healthy children of my own into the world, any mother going through natural childbirth comes to a point when she believes she might die. True story.
But the struggle is necessary, and the “assistance” often hurts or kills the one it is intended to help.
Life is a struggle, and the effort exerted to simply come into the world hardens and strengthens us for the years of battle ahead.
In our current American culture, good-intentioned adults often undermine the very children they want to help by making things too easy. Children in sports get participation trophies just for showing up, while Boomers had to be on the team that beat all the other teams to get a trophy, and often that was a shared trophy that was passed from winning team to the next year's winning team.
School children get awards for being the wittiest in class or reading the most books. Five-year-olds go through a graduation ceremony, complete with cap and gown.
The problem with all this is that it destroys the strength that made America great to begin with. Every American citizen today is the descendant of an immigrant. Some have a proud lineage they can trace back to soldiers that fought the British in the War for Independence. Some, like my ancestors, came to these shores from Scotland with barely two pence to rub together, settled the highlands of the Southeast, and had just got their breath when war with the Brits broke out.
Black Americans have ancestors that suffered the stench and deprivation of slave ships from Africa or came as more recent immigrants for educational opportunities here.
Even the indigenous tribes of North and South America originally paddled across the Pacific in canoes or walked across the ice from Siberia and Mongolia.
These were people of substance -- hardy stock.
I watched an online seminar in Amsterdam one time where American farmer Joel Salatin was explaining the ways an entrepreneurial farmer could prosper, and one of the Dutchmen in the audience during the Q & A said, “All our people with that kind of adventurous spirit went to America!”
I laughed, but it's true! America is a mighty nation for two reasons: It always had a strong foundation in the God of the Bible, and the people were willing to suffer hardship – to come to a free land, to raise a family, start a business, even fight wars for freedom's sake.
If we are not willing to let our children struggle in the relative safety of home for things that matter, how will they grow up to be like their great-grandparents – the “Greatest Generation?”
Let the children struggle for those things worth fighting for and honor them when they achieve. It makes them strong enough to one day lead.