Participating in our county fair is fun but sometimes I can turn into the Wicked Witch of the Fair when it gets down to the wire.
The weeks prior to Achievement Days, I have to look at or walk around posters and displays propped up on unused spaces during their varied stages of completion. It doesn’t help my mood that our fair is during the Sturgis Rally and the most commonly used route to get there winds through Custer State Park. The drive over starts out enjoyable but dealing with excessive traffic in order to get to Hermosa on time quickly turns stressful.
Early in the 4-H year, I start out excited and have good intentions of getting our kids to begin their projects but nobody, including myself, thinks about projects or gets seriously motivated until a month beforehand. By July, persistent nagging to start, work on, or finish projects echoes throughout the house. Once the effectiveness of regular naggings wears off, other equally effective tactics are used. This includes but is not limited to: guilt-tripping, slave-driving, privilege-revoking or escalated harping.
Guilt-tripping is when a parent (probably the mom) puts the 4-Hers on a guilt trip for not working on their project; especially if the kids hold an office in their 4-H club and set examples for other members. Slave-driving is getting the 4-Hers up early and the entire day’s agenda is project work. Escalated harping is a mild term for yelling and/or arguing over project work or lack thereof. Revoking privileges like going with Dad, visiting a friend, or being a kid, happens when projects are still not done and 72 hours remain before J-Day (4-H judging).
I’m ashamed to admit I’ve resorted to using some of these strategies out of desperation to get my kids to complete their projects. But what kind of “involved” parent would I be if I allowed my kids to show up at the fair with an incomplete project or none at all? It would reflect badly on my involvement if I didn’t do my part and crack the whip.
The problem lies in the fact that I persuaded my children to take certain projects I felt were life skills they needed to learn and agreed to help them brainstorm spectacular project ideas, and that’s where it remained until fair time. Getting my kids to complete their projects year-round would be the life skill I need to learn about.
I’m convinced our fair established Saturday night’s event specifically for parents like me to have something to look forward to. It’s the kind of event that takes away the edginess of fair tensions, offers something to get through the rest of the fair, and is highly anticipated every year. Once I’ve gotten my kids and all their projects delivered intact and have had enough of vacationers not paying attention while driving, motorcycle traffic, grandstand seating, and concession stand meals, Saturday night’s annual Beers ‘N Ears (of sweet corn) temporarily distracts me from the various stresses I let override my fair-time fun.
The kids get premiums and I get steaming sweet corn and a frosty mug of beer. Now that’s fair.
This column was originally published August 26-September 1, 2007