Farmer Chickadee

By Mir
October 12, 2010

I may have mentioned once or twice or twenty times that Chickadee has joined just about every possible club, group and team available to her this year, save for the ones that involve actually sports. (“I am not a sports person,” she explained to me in all earnestness, and I swear I only spent a few hours trying to convince her that roller derby might be her true calling. She remains skeptical. I am SO renting Whip It for her as soon as humanly possible, though.)

Most of her choices made sense to us. Academic team, math league, yoga, Yearbook… no surprises there. But then came the day that she came home and asked me to sign her form for Future Farmers of America.

“Are you planning to be a farmer?” I asked her, greatly amused. This is the same child who screams at the sight of bugs and whose usual response to nature is “GET IT OFF ME!”

She—predictably—rolled her eyes and sighed.

“FFA is about science projects and stuff, MOTHER,” she informed me. “We’re going to do a PROJECT and there’s PRIZES and stuff.”

Oh, well then. Prizes. I should’ve known.

And that first day when I signed the slip, Chickie may have left out one other important point—the projects get taken to the Fair. The Fair that’s two hours away. And they go on a school day, and miss the entire day of school, and by the way, could she have $15 for a midway pass so that she could ride the rides?

Yes, this was a decision born of a love for SCIENCE. If by “science” you mean “rollercoasters.”

In the end, she and a friend put a lot of time into their project, and except for the part where they “forgot about it for a couple of days” (um, oops?) I think they worked really hard. We agreed to split the cost of the midway pass with her, which seemed like a reasonable compromise. And today she’s off to the Fair, riding rides, presenting her project, and probably eating her weight in junk food.

Things have actually been pretty calm around here, lately. I mean, don’t get me wrong; she’s still twelve-and-a-half-and-why-do-you-treat-me-like-a-child-STOMP-STOMP-SLAM and, well, that’s pretty self-explanatory. Hormones and emotions do run high at this age. But she’s been pretty good. I am awfully fond of her, and the moments when I would like to shake some sense back into her are thankfully not all that frequent.

That said, last night I was urging her to get packed up and organized for today, because the bus for the Fair was departing at an unholy early hour. She complied with no problems, but then I asked her what she was planning to wear. (Her school requires uniforms. Skipping school for the Fair all day meant picking her clothes. Very exciting.) She responded that she was planning to wear a skirt and a tank top.

Otto pointed out that a skirt on the midway (particularly given her love of rides that spin and jerk and go upside down) might not be such a great idea. I pointed out that a tank top on a day when the forecast is for it to be 90+ and you have a skin condition which is severely aggravated by sun exposure might not be the best choice.

And then her head started spinning around. Because we are MEAN and we NEVER LET HER DO THINGS and ALSO WE ARE MEAN.

So it was all set to become an argument. We were all right there on the precipice; she was freaking out, I said again that I was saying no to a tank top while she insisted she would wear sun screen, and then I just looked at Otto and he looked at me and I took a deep breath and just… stopped. “It’s not up for discussion, and it’s not a punishment, it’s because it’s my job to protect you from yourself. If you burn your shoulders—which you almost certainly will, being outside for an entire day—you will be miserable for the rest of the week. You’re probably going to have a sun reaction, anyway. I am just telling you to cover your shoulders. The end. Wear a regular shirt or don’t go, okay?”

She glared at the floor. I kissed her unyielding head and walked away. And two minutes later everything was fine again, and this morning she wore a t-shirt (and a skirt and LEGGINGS ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?) and packed her sunscreen and for all I know she also packed a tank top and changed as soon as she got to school, but I prefer to believe that we are learning how to interact more productively. So.

Also—in case you’re wondering—she already told me she wants to quit FFA “right after the Fair.” Of course.


  1. Brandi

    Mir.. FFA hasn’t been called Future Farmers of America since 1988. Just sayin’

    (former FFA secretary & parliamentarian of her High School FFA Chapter..)

  2. Mir

    Brandi, does it stand for something else, now? Or is it just plain FFA the way we’re supposed to believe KFC never involved things that are fried? ;)

  3. k.mayer

    If she weren’t stomping down the hall, slamming the door, and proclaiming you’re the meanest mom in the universe, she wouldn’t be growing into the healthy, normal, beautiful young woman she’s destined to be. It’s surviving the next um, 5-7 years that will be difficult. For you. For her, a breeze, for you, it’s gonna suck. Big time. Welcome to my world: it’s going to be alright.

  4. Brandi


    It’s official name is the “National FFA Organization” although it’s just referred to as “FFA” mostly.. It was changed due to the stigma attached that only farmers could join when it really is about agriculture as a whole. I actually thing Chickadee would gain a lot from FFA, I did! And I’m about as far from a farmer as you can get.. It really created a family at my school and we all went to the National FFA Conventions (no parents! lots of bad food! bonding! they had a BAND you could audition to play in!) and really meshed. In the end my FFA friends were by far the best friends I could’ve had in such a horrible environment (High School.. ewwww)

    And yeah there were some farmer aspects.. I can judge dirt and cows and did competitions to that effect.. but hey, it was part of being a member :)

    My touchyness (…so not a word) may be due to my dad calling me a farmer every time he saw me in my uniform, heh.

  5. Nelson's Mama

    I believe in the future of farming, with a faith born not of words but of deeds…

  6. dad

    What…no firestorm today?

  7. Megan

    Heh. Yup, figure the odds that she packed a tank (or wore one under) are about even. This coming from the girl who took shorts to school and changed there for an entire month in high school (yeah, wasn’t allowed to wear shorts. I’m warped). I also changed out of my oh-so-modest pink silk formal dress and into the strapless slip from my grandmother’s wedding dress on prom night. Oh rebellion – you were so sweet when I was on the giving end!

  8. elz

    Oh, the FFA. Chickadee is an interesting fit since she’s a vegetarian and the FFA chapters here (and in California where my relatives are involved) raise animals for to be sold (either to the butcher or to the breeder). So, um, methinks that is not the best fit…What do I know though; I was the typical overcommitted kid. In high school I was in well over 75% of the yearbook. I never found an extracurricular activity I didn’t like!

  9. Jessica

    Mir, you know how much I approve of roller derby! I neglected to tell you that my fancy author friend, Pamela Ribon (aka May Q. Holla) was in your neck of the woods last month announcing for CCR and reading from her book about derby.

    It doesn’t look like CCR has a Junior Derby, but it is becoming hugely popular so they may have one in the works. And, in the summer, there’s always the L.A. Jr. Derby summer camp…


  10. Sherry

    Maybe 4-H would be more her speed.

  11. Crista

    My niece joined FFA as a freshman, and she has really gotten a lot out of it. I second what Brandi said about the family aspect. It’s not just about farming, either. They have something called Parli Pro, which, from what I understand, is like a debate team. They go up against other schools, and if they are good enough, they end up at regional, state, and national championships.
    Last year, as a sophomore, 1st semester, my niece had 3 ag classes! Ag science, ag math (? counting sheep?), and floriculture as her elective, where they had some pretty neat projects (they made a huge floral memorial for the memorial service of a student who had passed away, they made the flowers for someone’s wedding, and they made centerpieces to be auctioned off at the FFA dinner fundraiser). She has also raised a lamb at the school’s farm the past two years.
    I had no idea they took the “farmer” out of the equation, either.

  12. Nelson's Mama

    I wanted to come back and add to want Brandi posted earlier. I was a member of FFA during high school, I was involved in the horticulture program that my high school offered (so, no, I didn’t raise any animal to be slaughtered).

    However, my husband was very active, serving as chapter reporter, then chaper president and regional vice president. He then went on to compete and win the state extemporaneous speaking competetion and then placed second at National Convention. He also competed on the state Parlimentary Procedure team, that did quite well, as I recall.

    After college he went on to work for a Big Four accounting firm and is now an executive with a large liquor manufacter and also on the board of a bank. I’m not telling you those things about him to toot him horn, but to say that we grew up in a rural community and his experiences with FFA opened many, many doors to him.

    FFA is not all about meat judging and farming – it’s about developing character and learning life skills. It was an awesome organization in the ’80s and I believe it probably still is today.

  13. Ginnie

    Your post could describe the events the take place at my house on any given evening. The sad thing is, I remember the very same thoughts, emotions, etc. that my daughter is going through right now yet I have no sympathy for her.

  14. Daisy

    She needs to read “Project Mulberry” by Linda Sue Park (author of “A Single Shard”). Now there’s a project any FFA or 4-H type person could handle with pride!

  15. Tracy B

    I admire Chickie for doing projects and presenting them. Most adults can’t pull that off. And I’m proud of her reaction to your meaniness. =) Oh, btw, what was the project on?

    Former FFA member

  16. Karen P

    My daughter also did FFA as a high school senior. She raised a pig. She is a vegetarian and we bought the pig and ate it. (She didn’t) She did have fun working on the farm that they raised the pigs on.

  17. Amy

    Our school didn’t have FFA (shocking really considering we were in rural Alabama) but we did have 4-H, which I would also highly recommend as I was in 4-H from 1st grade through 12th grade. I think both FFA and 4-H take a lot of the “glamor” out of school groups and help to actually help students to grow as individuals. And aside from the conventions, projects, etc, there are usually pretty awesome service projects involved.

    Also, I went from a farmers daughter, to the first college graduate in my family, to an accountant who does farm work on the side…for fun.

    Also, yay for Chickie winning 1st prize!!

  18. Katie in MA

    I think the midway is a fair enough (get it?!!! ha ha) reward for pulling off an awesome project. And I’m happy that at least one skirmish was not-so-skirmishy after all.

  19. jessica

    Another parliamentarian?! And another secretary at that! Brandi, I was on the ParliPro teams for FHA and FBLA (I’m neither a homemaker nor a business leader), and I loved it. It really helps me in work situations, and I was pretty excited when our FHA team was able to go to nationals my senior year. Our FFA group in HS didn’t have a ParliPro team, or I’m sure I’d’ve been all over that one, too. ;) (I lived in a very rural area, so our FFA was largely about animals and agriculture, since that was a genuine life skill to have in that area. My HS was literally in the middle of three corn fields and one soybean field.)

    I’ve never met another parliamentarian since I’ve been out of HS. :D

  20. MacDougal Street Baby

    How good of you not to get embroiled by her emotions. I could use a dose of that kind of parenting. I will think of you and this post when all my children come home from school today wanting what is not good for them..

  21. Jan in Norman, OK

    Does FFA still have those blue “Ag” (short for agriculture) jackets?

  22. Flea

    Future Farmers of America is what’s printed on the truck at the high school. Huh.

    When my Mae was about nine, her uncle told her bored self to go outside and play. Her response? “I’m an indoor kid.” We still don’t let her live that one down.

  23. Rachel

    I’m a big fan of letting kids make mistakes- they’re super smart. They’ll learn… you just have to make sure they’re safe while letting them mess up, and that’s tricky.

    When I was in 9th grade, I had this big giant ugly purple coat that my dad bought on sale. It was super-practical and not cute at all. I hated it. Living in Colorado, you have to wear a coat. A lot. So my dad and I fought about it. A lot. Usually he said, “you’re wearing the coat, end of discussion.” But one morning, it wasn’t cold-enough-for-me-to-get-frostbite, just cold-enough-for-me-to-be-miserable. I started up the “I’m not wearing this hideous thing” discussion, and my dad let me win and go without the coat.

    I’ll never forget that day. It sucked. I chose to wear a coat on my own after that.

  24. ellen

    Sorry: English teacher here, couldn’t get past that first sentence. Please edit and revise. Love, grammar Nazi

  25. Cele

    So no budding farmers in your midst… beyond you that is.

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