Growing up isn’t always easy.

Whitehurst marci
Freelance Writer
Marci Whitehurst is a freelance writer, ranch wife and the mother of three children. You can foll...

Yes, I know that’s true for the kids, but today I’m talking about us parents. Growing up isn’t easy because as our kids grow up, we are also still growing up.

This summer, we had the pleasure of having our oldest daughter be the first guinea pig for an internship program the ranch is starting. She’s done other internships, so she’s familiar with the process and agreed to give it a go. I suppose it is a bit of nepotism, but there’s also familiarity that is helpful when you’re trying it for the first time.

There’s a bunkhouse on the ranch where she lived for the summer. It happens to be 2 miles away from our house, so having her close was fun. It brought back memories and allowed us to create new ones. It reminded us of old frustrations and, well, created new ones.

She is headed into her senior year of college. She’s applying to vet schools this year. Certainly, we don’t know what the future holds, but it is likely this was her last summer “home.” (Also, if you haven’t seen vet school applications, you should check it out – quite the process.)


Our other daughter stayed in her college town for the summer because she is a college athlete. People ask where she got her talent from, and we are certain she got it from ranching as a kid, although there is literally no connection except staying active and having dirt roads to run.

Our son is still stuck with us for a couple years – yay!

While we totally understand and want what’s best for all the kids, we miss them when they’re gone. We love it when they all come home together.

We learned a lot this summer having our daughter around. The top two lessons:

  • We are aging.
  • We learn a lot working for other people.

Fortunately, there’s another family on the ranch our kid could learn from – and have fun with. It means so much when other people invest time and energy into our kids. Our daughter said one of the biggest things she learned was how important it is to work for other people. That is not a slam on anyone who stays on the ranch, just an observation that learning how other people do things helps us learn how we like to do things.

When she was out-of-state last summer on a feedlot, we heard information about how they worked the pens, processed animals, doctored animals and such. It really opened her eyes to see that end of things since we are cow-calf ranchers. Sure, we’ve retained heifers and saved a nice bull calf, but aside from feeding out a few steers for meat (which doesn’t count), we don’t have feedlot experience. It really helped her see a greater spectrum of the ag industry.

Plus, we learned from things she said, like how often they move pens and clean; managing good feedlots is a fine-tuned art form.

Learning from your kids is fantastic. I used to think it was our job as parents to teach our kids, which is true. However, it is equally true that we learn from our kids:

  • When they are really young, we learn from them how little sleep we can function on.
  • We learn that getting embarrassed is really not so bad. (Cue the kid having a meltdown in the store or telling everyone you drink and drive – which actually meant a water bottle while driving…).
  • We learn that every animal or insect can be considered a pet.
  • We learn the true meaning of hangry. Have snacks stored in the truck, four-wheeler, calving barn (but in bins so as not to attract mice), etc., to be prepped for “cowboy time.”
  • We learn how to be quick and patient. Sometimes at the same time.
  • We learn new meanings of love, fear, anxiety and hope.

As our kids get older, we learn different lessons:

  • When they are young adults, we get to glean from their learning experiences. Our daughter learned a different way to wrestle calves from another family and liked it way better. Great!
  • We learn love in a different way: Parenting looks more like asking questions, rather than telling them what to do.
  • We learn how to communicate with our adult kids as equals. Truly, we’ve always tried to think of our adult kids as equals, so I hesitate to use this term, but I simply mean there is a friendship component without discipline. It’s nice. 

All the seasons we go through, we have an opportunity to grow. No matter how old we get, it’s always a good age to keep learning.

And having our kid as an intern was a learning experience. Now she can tell us the things she liked (ahem, free food), as well as what not to do…like giving vague instructions like, “Grab the thingamajigger next to the whatchamacallit.”

Thank goodness for learning curves.