It has been over three months now since the hens and rooster joined us in the little house in Guatemala. Then came the turkeys and geese, and at the beginning, I was treating them like babies. Once or twice a day you give them food (or more, if we are talking about babies, don’t feed your infant once a day because you read it on RFI), water, a roof over their head, and you wait for a few months until they start being interesting, make cute giggles and have a conversation.
But after a few days of close observation, I realized they do have many things to teach us.
Life is simple
Life is simple if you let it be. They wake up with the sun, go out and exercise, play with each other, go to bed at sunset. Rinse, repeat for the rest of their life.
We get pressured all the time, to do this and that, to attend an event, to be like our peers want us to be… Life is much simpler than you give it credit for, nothing terrible will happen because you didn’t make your bed this morning or did not attend the twelfth wedding of the summer.
When I think something is so important worrying about it keeps me up at night, I ask myself: ”will I remember this in a year? In 10 years? Will I laugh about it or still be sad/worried/annoyed/angry”. Generally, the answer is the world will still be the same and I am preoccupied for nothing.
Social bonds and family are important
When I throw food at them (still on a zero food waste challenge, but they love our veggie peels and the rare leftover!), the rooster makes a specific noise to warn the other hens that there is food to eat. Without it, some may miss dinner time and get hungry. One hen takes care of a few chicks, whether they are hers or not, and teaches them patiently how to eat and survive.
The social capital you build around you is very important, you may not need it but having people who care is always a plus. And according to many old people, it helps you live longer too. It gets lonely on your own, when you have to fight each and every battle.
Whatever happens, life goes on.
One day, the lady goose didn’t wake up. She had been low for a few days, and we suspect some of the fishermen threw her a stone in the head and knocked her out. On that morning, mister goose was screaming to the top of his lungs, and his poor lady was being washed by the lake, inert. Mr goose was upset until his mate was out of sight, and a couple of hours later, the handyman brought another female goose, and he was happy again, going on with his life.
However tragic the life event, even death and permanent illness, complaining will not help. We all need to grieve, have a good cry, be angry even at our situation, but we are also the only persons able to improve our lives.
Routines are powerful
One thing that is really impressive with the animals is that they don’t know who I am, they don’t particularly appreciate me, but they know that around 4pm, when I get down to the beach where their cage is, it is time to eat. They hastily return to the cage, and start begging for food if I am too slow, or just down to the beach for a swim. They know I am the food provider, and the end of the afternoon is a time to eat.
Other little ones were too frail to live on their own once their mother abandoned them, so I put them in my bathroom for a while. After one night, they were already used to going back to the house instead of the cage, and patiently waiting for me to open the door and let them in. They are incredibly resilient and will settle into a new routine in no time.
For us, it is a bit harder, but routines can make your life so much easier. Remember the first time you drove a car? You had to think about what your feet were doing, and if you had the chance to drive a manual, about the gear change, and so on. Now you drive routinely and can even listen to a great podcast on the way.
Protecting is not helping
The frail chicks I have protected in my bathroom were the first ones born on the property. A couple of weeks later, 5 more chicks were born and left in the cage, in spite of older animals bothering them. The weak died and the strong survived to be much bigger and healthier than their protected older brothers.
It has been the same in my family. I was left alone to explore and grow, and my sister was always more protected. “Because she is smaller she can’t do that”, “she is a slow learner”, “she doesn’t have amazing grades but she did her best”. those were sentences you would hear my parents say almost every day and in front of her. And she came to believe it. Now she laments that I am an independent woman and she is unable to do things as basic as checking tire pressure on her car because she always had someone doing things for her.
I am not a parent and I know it is really hard to fine tune your parenting skills so you help without limiting your kid, but I believe with the same encouragements from my parents she would have had much better grades and street smarts.
Has your pet ever taught you a valuable life lesson?
This post was featured in The Frugal Farmer, thank you!
The curse of the modern lifestyle is that we are so removed from nature. Having pets and being around animals compensates a little for that lack.
The Norwegian Girl says
oh, absolutely. my dogs have shown me so much of what´s truly important in life. I honestly think that we find the original meaning of life just by observing animals, because that´s what we humans were once too.
Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies says
We have this squirrel in our neighborhood that we’ve named Stumpy because he’s missing both a leg and a tail and I can’t help but be reminded to persevere and keep living life whenever I see him. Such a trooper!
Pauline P says
Poor Stumpy! He is definitely an example that life goes on whatever adversity comes your way.
Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says
What a great post, Pauline, and you are so right. Since moving to the farm last year, we’ve learned SO much from the animals. They are simply amazing. And you’re right about making kids, encouraging them, to do stuff on their own. We often force our kids (within reason, of course) to do things they don’t want to do, simply to prove to them that they’re stronger than they may think they are. It’s hard, as a parent you feel bad forcing them to do stuff that’s scary or requires immense physical effort, but in the end, we’re always glad we pushed them on it, and they are too. 🙂
Pauline P says
Thank you Laurie. I imagine it can be hard to see your kid struggle to do something, but that is the only way they will learn and become confident.
Digital Personal Finance says
Excellent post, and very clever taking observations of animals and linking them to life lessons! Another example of why I enjoy your blog.
Anyway, to the point on overprotecting. As a parent, I can say that something activated in me to become naturally very protective – and I think that it’s human nature, especially for a father protecting a daughter. That said, we must pull away from this at time and remember that as we get older ourselves, we will be less able to help.
Ultimately, kids will grow up and be on their own, needing to survive. Best to teach them how to survive rather than bail them out on every occasion. Besides, there will be another generation in the distant future that will need to learn from someone – and if the parent never learned to be self-sufficient his or herself, then it makes it touch to teach and model such behavior.
DC @ Young Adult Money says
I think the routine thing is big. Our cat is over 20 years old but still is alert as ever at 5:30am because she knows it’s time for her to be fed. I’ve gone to the bathroom at 3am and she doesn’t move from where she’s sleeping, but when it’s 5:30 (or later) in the morning she makes sure I’m well aware it’s time to eat!
Budget and the Beach says
I love that, especially how social bonds are so important to overall health. I’m reading a book called mind over medicine, and there have been studies which show that people who ate a bad diet and never exercised can potentially live longer with strong bonds with others…it’s also been studied in the book the blue zones. I have thought about this a lot lately when friends have called me up to get a drink. My budget sometimes says, “skip the drink and stay home and be alone and watch netflix,” but I’ve loosened up a bit and go out and if they eat dinner, I just have a drink but still get to spend time with them. As someone who lives alone and doesn’t have a significant other, I think this is important!
Love this post. We have two dogs and they have taught us so much. The other day I saw a graphic that said something like “Dogs are the true meaning of happiness. They love you all day and wait all day long for you to get home from work to love you even more.”
My pet has taught us about a lot of things, but persistence is probably the big one. She keeps looking for her treat although she is not rewarded every time she looks for one.
Edward Antrobus says
I wrote previously about how my 3-legged cat is a good teacher of overcoming adversity. She would also be really good at hide and seek. 🙂
Pauline P says
Crippled animals are incredibly resilient, we can learn so much instead of complaining about every little thing gone wrong.
Love this post Pauline; it is always worth it, I have found, to observe animals and to draw lessons for life. But we shouldn’t forget that glotifying ‘the natural way’ may be over-rates as well. I remember, after my son was born, going to breast-feeding meeting (I never cracked this one) and someone there telling a friend of mine that everybody in the jungles of Amazonia can breastfeed and we are just being spoiled, middle class brats. What she failed to notice is that if one can’t breastfeed in the jungles of Amazonia the baby dies or someone else feeds it.
Then again, my relationship with nature is a bit like the one between Voltaire and Goid: we say hi but don’t talk to each other much.
Pauline P says
haha, true, not every woman can breastfeed, but someone would take over in communities where there is no bottles and milk available. I like the idea of being independent from the supermarkets by growing food, etc. but would not forego soap or shampoo for the sake of being green.
My dog has taught me that it is the little things in life that matter. It is amazing how excited he gets every time he gets food or I walk through the door. Got to spend more time enjoying the little things in life, for sure.
My cat always seems to know when I am not in the best of moods and he will jump in my lap. It’s like he knows I just needed a hug or something and he does his best to try to remedy that 😉
Pauline P says
Canadian Budget Binder says
That’s true about routine, don’t I know it. Our dog is up at the same time every day. He wants his toast and fresh bowl of water, then go for his morning walk. The entire day is mapped out and routine is what it is built around. Our dog has taught me that routine is not necessarily a bad thing because it helps me to be a better planner and work around what I already know what I have to do.
Pauline P says
toast? I thought bread was really bad for dogs. I don’t like routines myself because I like to think I am a free spirit, but truth said, you save a lot of time automating some things in your life.
I’ve had days where I’ve thought about this too, how simple life is as an animal. It’d be fun to be a cat for a day and lounge in the sun. 🙂
Matt Becker says
I love the “life is simple” lesson. I too find myself getting caught up in trying to accomplish the next time. From time to time it’s important to slow down so you can look at and appreciate all the things you already have. Life doesn’t always have to be about improvement.
Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says
What great lessons! I love animals. My dogs are forever teaching me to let things go and be more goofy. They don’t hold on to a grudge, they are so silly and lighthearted. I always think people need to roll with the punches like dogs.
KC @ genxfinance says
It’s amazing what can you learn if you just stop and observe. There are a lot fo things to learn and we can even learn that from other creatures and animals if we only open our heart. We have dogs at home too and they just bring us so much happiness.
Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa says
My dog taught me many valuable lessons. One thing that will always remain with me is the joy she took in every day. Her constant enthusiasm reminded me that every day is a gift and we should enjoy it.
I was out walking on Friday and I witnessed 3 ducks get hit by a van that sped off. I was shocked. The female walked away, the other to mallards weren’t so lucky. I cried all the way home. I just thought that they should put up duck crossing signs by the lake for crying out loud. I love animals. A lot! ;-(
Pauline P says
poor ducks! I saw a green crossing project for deers in the highway but I guess we are very far from duck crossings on smaller roads..
KK @ Student Debt Survivor says
So many lessons. Our pets are our family. We love them so much and they bring us so much joy. When one of them is feeling sick it just about breaks my heart. The photos of those fuzzy baby chicks just about made me melt.
There are so many gems in this article. Now I want to write an entire blog post on the topic of “protecting is not helping.” Life in Guanajuato has many similarities. Thanks for sharing!