Yes, God gives me many different ways to understand Him and get His point across. Even this beauty of a bovine was used to help me understand some family life dynamics!
The first lesson that we can learn from livestock is branding. Branding is one way that ranchers identify which cattle are theirs. Some of the brand symbols can be fairly ornate while many choose to use initials representing the family name. No, do not go out and tattoo your children to show they belong to you! The point is: help your family to have a sense of belonging. I met a wonderful step mom a while back and she called their family The Martin 6. Not all of their kids are together, but when they are, they embrace the Martin 6! This helps the kids know that they may have a mom at one house and a dad at another — step brothers and sisters, step mom and step dad — but when this particular ‘branch’ of family gets together, they are a special unit. They attempt to do fun things – celebrating the time together, as well as encouraging each child to feel a part and talk about this part of their family. I love seeing blended families being open and allowing children to voice their frustrations, hopes, wants, and insecurities. This is a special way to help your kiddos feel a part – be branded by your family – to give them a sense of belonging. What kind of logo or family crest could you come up for your blended family?
A second lesson to be learned is the use of cattle guards. A cattle guard is basically a deep rut in a road along a fence line that has metal bars extending across the road so that the cattle will not cross it. It is a boundary used instead of a gate along the rancher’s roads. You can drive or walk over it, but cattle will not cross it for some reason. I believe that in your blended family, you need cattle guards – boundaries set up in advance that protect your family from wandering astray. In our beginning blended family, Dan (my husband) and I had family council meetings. We tried to help each child know our expectations and boundaries. When things are ‘visible’, there is less confusion for each family member. Dan and I also worked together on a case by case basis regarding discipline and consequences for the kids. Trust me, we had all the kids testing our ‘cattle guards’ in some way or another, but for the most part, it was a healthy way for our family to stay closer and within our boundaries.
The last lesson is the cattle drive! The cattle drive is an event of rounding up the cattle from one place and pushing them towards another place. This takes ‘all hands’ – and is challenging and can be tiresome. What I love about the cattle drive description is that it says that the cattle are ‘pushed’. I know you want your blended family to be awesome. I know you want peace and harmony… but it will not magically appear. You and your husband are going to be the ones to ‘push’ your family – to move them from just tolerating each other – to a genuine care and compassion for each other. You will be the ones to create the teamwork so that the kids will take the steps forward to be ‘blended’. Another important aspect to the cattle drive is that the ranchers (you and your husband) are driving your family in the same direction! If the two of you don’t work together, you are going to have chaos. Make sure that you spend the time deciding on how to parent your children – how to discipline – how to prioritize your marriage – how to work with the other parents involved – in other words… drive your family in the same direction – not two different ones!
Enjoy the many lessons … I think you are going to be looking at cattle in a whole new way!