Work it out

Growing up the youngest of five, there were times that we just didn’t get along.

With 9 years between the oldest and youngest (me) and 3 channels to watch, one of them French, TV shows were often decided on by the (much bigger) boys.   Favorites like “The Carol Burnett Show” or “The Wonderful World of Disney” garnered cooperation from all but  “Hockey Night in Canada” meant front row seats for them and we girls off doing something else.

When Mom heard us bickering over something – the last cookie, the TV channel, etc, her response was always “Oh for Pete’s sakes, work it out.”

The thing is, we had each other and several thousand acres to run around on. We had animals and bikes, ponies and hay stacks.  We made up games and found ways to stay entertained.   And as much as they teased and tortured, my brothers’ schemes and ideas made for great adventures … and usually got us into trouble.

Like smoking in the hayloft.

Maybe not the best idea.

Or test driving the farm truck with three or four of us in the truck bed … headed down prairie trails at 50 mph and no brakes.  It’s a wonder we survived to laugh about it now.

In my experience, being farm raised meant a firm foundation and consistent values sprinkled with a healthy dose of neglect  freedom. We were taught what to do and we did it.  We had chores and responsibilities. We were trusted to figure things out as we went.  And did we ever.

I’ll never forget one hot summer’s day when the boys convinced us to trek a half  mile to the river for a swim. I was 4.   Filling a couple of mason jars and swiping a few cookies, I’m sure Mom assumed we were headed to the tree house, a daily play site.  The five of us took off, making our way through the brambles of the coulee, and down the raggedy hills to that swiftly flowing river.  I was too young to know better but oh-so-happy to be included.

the South Saskatchewan river, view from our homestead; an emjayandthemphoto (C)

the South Saskatchewan river, a view from the homestead. That water is cold and swift and deep.  an emjayandthemphoto (C)

The sun warmed my back as we played and that river sand felt so silky smooth sliding through my fingers. I remember water above me and lights cutting through it.  I didn’t know I was drowning but it was my brother’s arm who yanked me out, sputtering and scared.

A neighbor found us a few hours later and our parents, frantic and panicked, spanked every single one of us, both crying hysterically as they did.   I can only imagine the terror we terrorists caused them.

So when I saw this Mom’s creative way to make her kids “work it out,” I just had to chuckle, think of Mom and Dad and the five of us rug rats, too.   Because if we had been made to wear this as kids, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be around to talk about it.

image from

“You shut up; no, YOU, shut up.” image from

How were conflicts resolved in your family?  Did your parents have a saying you remember hearing?

Categories: Attitude, Faith, Fun, Home, Life, Life Lessons, Mom, Personal, Relationships, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Wisdom, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

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35 thoughts on “Work it out

  1. Oh, the ingenuity we find on the internet. Priceless photo.
    I bet you scared your parents half to death. I have to shudder just thinking of what could have happened! Thank goodness your brother was “aware” and not caught up in his own fun.

    • We had a good laugh over that photo!! I know that there were many times we scared them half to death but this might have been the worst of them. Thank goodness for brothers!

  2. Oh my goodness. When I was reading about you being four years old and heading to the river, the mother in me almost trembled with fear. Wow. What a story. A similar thing happened to my mom – she was one of 12 children on a farm. I can’t remember the exact story, but she almost drowned too. Many in the family wondered how they all lived to be adults too!

    • I remember it very vividly but it’s almost like it happened to someone else. I still remember the water and lights over me and I do remember consciously waving my arms back and forth. We had been playing in a pool of water, separate from the main river and I must have slipped off of a ledge and into the deeper part. *Shudder* Thankfully I never developed a fear of water .. but easily could have. Thank goodness your Mom made it through that as well 🙂

  3. I had the same kind of farm freedom as a child. My mother’s saying: “It’s a beautiful day. Get outside.” She didn’t really care where we were outside, or what we were doing . . . We’d wander home when we got hungry.

    • ‘Darn right. We came in at lunchtime and then again at supper … otherwise we were not to be found. Being found = chores 🙂 MJ

  4. That’s funny I just made my older two a short like this last night! Growing up we did have freedoms to wander into trouble outside but not to argue with one another inside. That was a quick way to get on my mom’s bad side! I find myself being that type of mom as well! I cannot stand the arguing and bickering and I will not tolerate physical fighting or name calling. Oh the joys:-)

    • That’s hilarious; please post photos of your new ‘get along’ shirt 🙂

      I know what you mean, I have little patience for incessant bickering .. when the boys were little if that stuff started I gave them a project to do together and that soon settled that!

  5. Yep, I grew up on a farm as well..we’ve bantered about that before I know. It plants some things in a person’s soul you don’t realize until later. Saying I remember? Dad, who still works and will turn 81 this June likes to say “The word retirement is not in my vocabulary.” and he means it. discipline wise, I got and still get the sense mom and dad weren’t quite sure what to do with the 4 of us..especially my brother and I. We were only 15 months apart and used to fight daily.. and I’m not talking just verbally. We didn’t think too much about it..thought it was normal..but almost drove my mom nuts. we get along great now….

    • “Not sure quite what to do with the 4 of us.” Truer words were never spoken, DM.

      When the 5 of us gather there are stories retold and my Mom just shudders. I don’t think she knew about most of the things we did 🙂 MJ

  6. I grew up on a farm and mom always hated spring when my brother and I went out to the pond. Our boots always, always, got stuck in the mud and she had to retrieve them. But what fun.

    • Oh Spring and rubber boots and Kids go together don’t they? Not just getting stuck but all that mud that came back with us? 😉 MJ

  7. Growing up on a farm taught many lessons…how to work; how to play; how to get along; how to survive. I would go back and live on that farm if I thought I could survive alone.
    I was the youngest, however, it was my sister who almost drowned in my uncle’s pond. That was scary. I can feel how scared your mom must have been to think she could have lost you and spanked all of you because she loved you so much.
    A great remembrance.

    • Linda, I would go back and live on a farm again, too. My Mom was very scared and doesn’t really like to talk about that day; she doesn’t enjoy the re-telling of it as much as we all do.


  8. Ah, freedom! A lost option for most children these days! Too many scary adults and bad things in the world now. Proof that not everything improves with time and new ideas! Although advances are wonderful in many ways, we (our culture) have lost our innocence and trust, and I don’t think we can get it back.

    However, the river story makes my mother’s heart panic! Glad you survived to grow up and be who you are today! ~ Sheila

    • Looking back, all of us can see how fortunate we were to come out of that day with only a spanking. You’re right that today’s children rarely get the opportunities to explore as we did. I treasure those days.


  9. Oh my, that is priceless! Now that is an approach I need to pass along to my brother, who still has two little boys at home. Think I could make that work for my dogs? LOL Stay warm, my friend.

  10. I grew up on a farm too, even set the barn on fire (at the tender age of seven no less). Like you, it’s a small miracle that I’ve a live today. LOL. Great blog MJ and loved the photo. 🙂

  11. That is such interesting terrain in your photo. One of my brothers had five close in age. They had no farm to run free, but the neighborhood served the same purpose, so much to explore. They are a tightly-knit group.

    • there’s something to be said for all that freedom; every one of my brothers and sisters still live on a farm and all of their children grew up playing in OUR old treehouse … my boys loved visiting the family farm and setting out on adventures with their cousins. Some of their best memories.

      Cheers! MJ

  12. There are so many “almosts” in big families. But you know, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I too was the youngest of five with 9 years between me and my eldest sister.

    But I was babied. And I learned that if I cried when I thought somebody might be considering hitting me, they got in trouble and I didn’t get hit. It was my very first brilliant idea.

    • Well, at least you learned to work it to your advantage. I wasn’t babied although my older siblings would tell you I had it far easier than they did. Truth be told, they were fairly rotten so by the time I hit 16 there were no rules left to break – I took an alternate path and was the good kid. Boring in their minds’ eye.

      The parallels in our family #s is kinda neat, don’t you think? 🙂 MJ

      • Perhaps we are the same person, living in a parallel universe! Because there sure are a lot of similarities. Including a near drowning incident where my brother hauled me out of the water (the water was only about 1 foot deep though — not like your really potentially dangerous situation)

        But it really sounds like my upbringing — there wasn’t anything left to break by the time I got to be a teenager. I was a pretty damn good girl too!

      • I don’t know but I sure agree there are some crazy similarities 🙂 Yep, by the time I hit 16, I’d been the one AT home when they were out breaking the rules. I learned what not to do early on 😉 MJ

  13. I grew up in the city, and although my adventures had a different landscape than yours, there were adventures none the less. We had empty lots where we built forts and used our imaginations to play for afternoons on end. And the places we could go on our bikes were endless.

    My mom was quick with the “Pete’s sake” reference too, when we weren’t getting along. But mostly I remember how quickly we learned not to complain about boredom…. “If you’re bored, I can find plenty for you to do. Do you want to scrub toilets or vacuum the floors?”

    • Oh can I ever relate to the “oh you’re bored?” statement — yes we were up and gone at morning’s light because sticking around = chores. Not that we didn’t do them but those were the extra chores on top of regular chores i.e. weed the garden, clean the basement … all those jobs that seemed to be scheduled on the most beautiful days!

      I loved your reference to the empty lots and forts and imaginations to run wild – those were the best days as a child, wouldn’t you say? 🙂


  14. I hated to hear, “Just you wait until your father gets home!” Growing up the oldest of four children (with three younger sisters), I had a tendency to bear the brunt of all the whippings…including for things that I didn’t even do!!! Well, MOSTLY for things I didn’t do… :D. Great nostalgic post, MJ.

    • My husband grew up with that saying, too, and relates that he always felt badly for his Dad who might have otherwise had a really good day … until he walked in and saw the guilty party sitting in “the chair.” Oh the things we learned as kids — much of it becomes what we end up doing – or not doing – as parents, right?

      Great to hear from you, Guy. I started writing these stories down before I forget them .. there are just so many!!

  15. Ha-ha! I’m the oldest of five and can so relate to this! That T-shirt is a a great idea…I’ll have to pass it along to my oldest son. They may want to use it on to their kids. 🙂
    Great post!

  16. Pingback: Meet my neighbor – MJ | I also live on a farm

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