Why does my daughter smell like a goat? – One Parent’s Perspective*
POSTED 1.12.15 Blog

My daughter, your Lady Sarena, started her camp career properly at age 9 at a farm camp run by an order of nuns in Dutchess County, New York.  It was close to my office, so I had the privilege of dropping her off in the morning and picking her up in the afternoon.  It was a two-week session and from day 1, she was in love with the animals, the staff, and the whole experience.

Our drives home became a step-by-step recounting of everything that she did that day as well as some not-so subtle hints about how much she would like certain farm animals for her very own. It became apparent that Sarena would volunteer for any duty that involved the animals, from cleaning the stalls, to catching the chickens, and moving the goats. It was about halfway through the first week when the odor started. She would go off to camp each morning looking neat and clean and return with half the barnyard on her clothes and smelling, well, much like a male goat.

When I finally decided to inquire about the stench, Sarena informed me that she spent the last bit of her free time each afternoon with Max, the farm’s lone male goat. So that smell that I thought was much like a male goat was, in fact, a male goat. When I asked why, she explained that Max, being the only “intact” male goat, had to be kept separate as his pheromones (aka the cause of the stink) would disrupt the females’ milk production and, generally, cause quite a ruckus. At 9, she understood a little more about the mating habits of goats than I might have expected or preferred, but she also felt bad for Max since he had to be alone while the other goats lived together, free to butt heads, lay in the sun and stand on top of things, all things Sarena assured me goats loved to do.

I tried, subtly at first, to encourage her to perhaps make shorter visits to see Max or move them to earlier in the day; but by the end of the week, our car had a permanent odor, one that would last well past the end of camp. That first year at camp brought two important lessons- First when your car smells like a male goat, it’s best not volunteer to drive your co-workers to lunch or meetings or anywhere, really. Second, as parents, we do not always understand the things our children love. Sometimes being a parent is not understanding what your child loves but giving them the space to explore and experience whatever they have set their hearts on.

I may never understand why Sarena loves camp so much or what compelled her to spend each afternoon with a truly foul smelling goat, but I know that her summers have given her independence, adventure and a better understanding of who she is and what she values in life. The summer of the goat was a milestone in many ways, giving Sarena the beginning of what has turned out to be a lifelong love of camp and me some insight into my role as a parent and an excellent excuse for a new car.

-John Barausky

*This post came to me, unprompted, via email from my father. I will have a response in my next post but for now, I hope that you all enjoy his reflections and the somewhat embarrassing facts he provided about my childhood.