I often tout the benefits of hands-on learning over textbook lessons. That position sounds great when I'm talking about my children's hands, but sometimes my own hands get called into action.
The first time I really questioned my hands-on learning speech, I was looking at a goat's udder and wondering how I'd get the milk out of the goat and into the bucket. It has been a few years now since I was first intimidated by the thought of milking a goat. In that time, I have grown to feel comfortable with my goats and even confident. That confidence was a lovely, happy feeling that was just waiting to be shattered by reality.
A few weeks ago, in the middle of a rainstorm, one of our goats had some trouble kidding. I had read the stories of birthing gone wrong and congratulated myself on having such superior goats that I never had to worry about such things. Pride is an ugly thing.
One afternoon, we went out to try and get the chores done ahead of the rain. While we were out, we saw Spot doing her best to have a baby goat that was very large and in an awkward position.
I was afraid at that moment. I felt so inadequate and unprepared. Fortunately, I had two of my girls there to help. Having my children around helps me remember that even if I don't know the answer, demonstrating calm under pressure is a good place to start.
My first thought was to wait and see how things would go. No need putting my hand in a goat's uterus if I didn't need to. Like most people, I didn't know what I'd do if I did get my hand in there. I sent the girls for soapy water and towels while I called everyone I could think of who might have advice. I ended up talking to an obstetrician who assured me that I could manage. I suspect it was the first time anyone called her about goat birthing.
As the girls came back, another friend called with more advice. I was gaining confidence even as I hoped that Spot would handle things on her own.
Too soon, the situation was looking grim. The goat kid was becoming unresponsive and lethargic. It was time to soap up and apply some of that hands-on learning. The mama goat, as you might expect, was not particularly fond of this new development. She took off.
Olivia and Sophia were assigned to hold the goat solidly so that I could reach in and pull out the goat kid. Spot was quite opposed to the idea and was fighting vigorously. Olivia was not comfortable holding her side of the goat. At the same time, I was finding that the inside of a goat is a slippery place. I needed that goat to be still so I could really pull.
I encouraged Olivia to try again. This prompted Sophia to make an observation. "If Mom can put her hand in the back of a goat," she told her, "you can hold on to the front." That seemed to help all of us focus. I said a prayer and gave one last pull. The goat made it out safely. His tiny twin shot out shortly after.
Days later, Olivia was talking to a friend. "If I live on a farm when I grow up," she said, "I am not having goats."
Rose Godfrey is a speech pathologist and homeschooling mom in Meridian. Her homeschool blog can be found on the Appeal-Democrat website at appealdemocrat.com.