It’s been said that a person’s basic personality doesn’t change over the course of their lifetime. I can also remember, from the several educational psychology courses I took throughout my academic career, that the personalities of children are formed by age five and they will pretty much remain the same people the rest of their lives. The older I get, the more I believe these statements to be true.
My oldest son is home for a couple of weeks. He has lived in Ireland the past 2 years while working on his Doctorate at a university over there. He promises me that he only has one more year to go, but something tells me that it may take a bit longer – it always has.
Over supper the other night, we were reminiscing about his ‘farming days’ when his first responsibility was to feed the bottle calves every night and morning. The only thing more difficult than waking Seth each morning was to get him to mix the bottles and take them to the hungry calves that waited. It was always, at the least, a thirty minute argument about how these chores needed to be performed in a timely routine so as to not upset the delicate balance of a calf’s digestive system. I would usually lose my temper somewhere along the ordeal and a spanking was probably more common than it should have been. Somehow, the calves always got fed, but the stress of getting it done made me wonder, more than once, the worth of the whole project. The evening feedings were no easier.
Later in his young life, Seth started to show cattle. He liked the actual “showing” aspect of the project because it gave him a great opportunity to socialize with his friends, but all the work of feeding, washing, brushing and exercising that are necessary to do well in the show ring usually resulted in just as brutal arguments as the feeding of the bottle calves. But, again, he reminded me that the chores did eventually get done. It just took more time than his obsessive-compulsive dad deemed necessary.
You see, I have always lived with a very regimented routine that is rarely varied. I have gotten up at the same time everyday for all of the 59 years that I can remember. On a recent visit to my sleep-center doctor, he was amazed while downloading the data from my CPAP machine that I had turned the machine off at 6:30 A.M. every morning for the past 365 days. “You NEVER sleep past 6:30,” he asked, “even on weekends?”
“Nope,” I answered. “I farm for a living and a Saturday is no different than a Wednesday.”
Which brings me back to the unstructured personality of my oldest son; over supper last night, I began to quiz him about when he was going to start applying for teaching jobs back here in the states. Having been a professor in my previous life, I reminded him that he should start searching and filling out applications this coming fall in order to obtain a job that would start in the fall of 2012 (when he should be completed with his studies and finally ready to enter the academic world on the other side of a paycheck).
“Yeah, yeah,” he answered much too nonchalantly.
Since he is a man now, I had to bite my lip more than once before threatening to spank him if he didn’t get those calf bottles mixed and down to the barn right now! Seemingly everything I’ve ever told him to do has resulted in a confrontation that has caused one or both of us to regret saying something. After taking a deep breath, I also remembered that somehow, some way, the bottle calves always got fed, the show heifers always got washed and groomed and the chores eventually got done.
As it turns out, those psychology books were right. Seth is the same devil-may-care person now as he was at age five. And, according to the sleep doctor and my son, I’m the same list-making, routine oriented person now as I was as a boy, making sure all my toy farm animals and equipment were safely stored in the toy barn so that everything was ready to go the next day – at 6:30.
Jerry Crownover farms in Lawrence County. He is a former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University, and is an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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