Mr. William Goat and Mrs. Nanette Goat were pondering. They wanted to raise their young goats just right. They had a good set of standards for their kids to follow. But the other creatures in the barnyard had such a variety of different standards! Oh, they all followed the very basic farm rules, but everyone had a particular interpretation of the rules. The barnyard was become disharmonious because everyone was so proud of his or her particular standards. What should they do?
“I’ll tell you what, Billy,” said Mrs. Nanette. “Tomorrow let’s ask some of the other animals and see how they view creatures who have different standards. I will talk with Mrs. Cat and Mrs. Pig. Why don’t you talk to Mr. Rooster and Mr. Dog?”
“Good plan, Nanny,” Mr. William agreed.
The next morning Mr. William went to see Mr. Rooster. “Mr. Rooster, how did you teach your offspring to handle differences of opinion over gray areas?” he asked.
“Gray areas?” Mr. Rooster crowed incredulously. “Gray areas? There is no such thing as a gray area! Have you ever noticed that I crow at the crack of dawn? Not the crack of noon. Not the crack of snack time. I crow at dawn. I am right. Everyone else is wrong—and willfully wrong at that!”
“Yes, but what if you agree on the principle but differ slightly on the application?” pressed Mr. William curiously. “For example, maybe you crow at 5:17 a.m. and a different rooster crows at 5:18 a.m. You’re both still crowing at the crack of dawn, aren’t you?”
“I see they’ve brainwashed you too,” scoffed Mr. Rooster. “Stop looking for ways to compromise.”
“But I really want to know! What about—”
“Sorry,” said Mr. Rooster haughtily, “gotta go. It’s disgusting the way the animals around here are always looking for loopholes to SIN.” He stalked away, feeling very righteous.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Nanette had gone to visit Mrs. Cat. “Mrs. Cat, can you tell me how you teach your kittens to view creatures who have different interpretations of the farm rules?” she asked.
Mrs. Cat coiled her tail neatly beside her and flicked a whisker complacently. “My dear,” she replied, “I have taught my kittens that if someone doesn’t think exactly like us, we should show them great patience and forbearance. The farmer loves us and we should love them.”
“Really?” said Mrs. Nanette, impressed. “Like how?”
“Like—why, there’s the dog. Kittens, look! There’s that horrible smelly repulsive dog! Now remember, just because he’s horrible, smelly and repulsive doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be kind to him. He’ll never measure up to our standards, but we’ll be magnanimous and love him anyway. Maybe some day he’ll become as good and humble as we are. Smile now!”
Mrs. Cat and her three kittens beamed patronizingly at the dog as he sauntered by. He took no notice of them, busily snuffing the ground on his path to a buried bone.
“It’s strange how that creature never wants to be friends with us,” meowed Mrs. Cat. “We thought he would feel honored by our loving tolerance of his ill-bred, disgusting ways, but he never seems to notice the great favor we’re doing him.”
“I see,” said Mrs. Nanette. “Well, thanks for the help.”
Next she went to visit Mrs. Pig. “Mrs. Pig, when someone has rather different standards from you, how do you teach your piglets to respond to them?”
“Honey,” snorted Mrs. Pig, “my standards is my standards and I don’t give an oink nohow about anybody else’s. If folks ‘round here don’t like it when me and my piggies root in the mud, that’s their problem not mine!”
“I’ve heard,” said Mrs. Nanette cautiously, “that your mud-rooting has badly splattered mud on several creatures.”
“So what?” oinked Mrs. Pig belligerently. “Did I ask them to come ‘round here? Stinkin’ legalists!”
“Well, your pigpen is on the way to the—”
“I don’t care!” interrupted Mrs. Pig. “I get this nonsense all the time. You’re gettin’ me dirty! Your example caused my junior to half drown himself in a mud puddle! I tell you what, those creatures are too uptight! They need to stop looking down their self-righteous snouts and accommodate me for once instead of always yapping about the “weaker creature.” The farmer SAID I can root in the MUD! And I don’t aim to stop my mud-rooting for a few seconds whenever some prissy creature walks by just so they don’t get a splatter on their little fur and feathers! Judgmental prigs!”
“So if they have a problem with you, you believe they should change, right?”
“You betcha, girl! Why should I change, honey? How inconvenient!” Mrs. Pig angrily stomped her hoof for emphasis and splattered pig-pen goo all over Mrs. Nanette face. “See what I mean? You’re standin’ too close, that’s why you got muddy!” she reproved.
Mrs. Nanette went home and took a bath. And Mr. William stopped to talk to Mr. Horse. “Mr. Horse,” he said, “won’t you tell me how to raise my kids to respond appropriately to creatures who interpret the farm rules differently from us?”
Mr. Horse nibbled a wisp of hay. “Young’un,” he said sagely, “who do you reckon owns this farm?”
“Why, the farmer.”
“Who do you reckon these animals are accountable to? Me? You? Mebbe Mr. Rooster or Mrs. Cow?”
“No, the farmer!”
“That’s right, son. Just you remember that. And just you remember who you’re accountable to as well. Most of us has got plenty to do mindin’ our own p’s and q’s without frettin’ over everybody else. No sense getting puffed up thinkin’ we’re better’n somebody else ‘cause our standards are a wee bit tighter or smarter’n somebody else ‘cause our standards are a wee bit looser.”
“That’s true,” Mr. William agreed, convinced.
“After all, in the grand scheme of things, what are you? Just a goat. And I be just a horse. How serious do we hafta take ourselves, my boy? We ain’t the indispensable right hand of the farmer. No need for us to be all impressed with ourselves. The farmer is kind to us in spite of our warts and I guess we can be kind to the other critters. We don’t have to agree with ‘em, but we’re better off thinkin’ about how the farmer loves us and how we ought to please him than on how much cooler we are than everybody else ‘cause our standards are so much better. Say, ain’t that the farmer now? Why look, he’s bringin’ me a carrot!”
Mr. William went home and shared all this with Mrs. Nanette. They raised their kids to love the farmer and please him. And they all lived happily ever after.
Raquelle Sheen was home-schooled all her life and obtained her college degree from home also. She and her family have been active in the homeschooling community for many years, having served with state homeschool organizations in several states. For more articles by the Sheen family visit www.homeschoolfamilyforum.com.