I had an IMPORTANT PARENTING MOMENT (hereafter to be known as IPM) this past weekend. You parents know what I mean: it's one of those flashes of insight or sudden realizations that hits you, and you recognize that you've learned something important about your child, and probably about yourself, too. I'm not sure if the fact that I have these from time to time means that I'm especially insightful, or that I'm typically oblivious and I should have realized whatever it is that is hitting me, long before. In any event, one occurred this weekend.
Here's the history. My 9 year old daugher Caroline takes a horse-back riding lesson every Saturday. She started riding when she was about 6 1/2...not because Roger or I wanted her to, but because she just wanted to and talked about horses and asked for lessons until we decided to give it a try. We signed her up for 3 lessons, and to be honest, I figured that she'd get up close to a horse and realize how a) big; b) smelly; and c) dirty it was, and that'd be that.
Boy, was I wrong. She was extraordinally intent during that first lesson, and has been ever since. She loves riding...in fact, her lesson is routinely the highlight of her week. So, recognizing that it was an activity that sprang from her own deep-seeded passion, Roger and I decided to pursue it. Since then, she's had a weekly lesson, and pony day-camp weeks on various vacations. Her interest hasn't waned; if anything, it's grown exponentially.
So, there I am, at the stable for Caroline' s lesson almost every Saturday. We arrive at 9:30, so she has 30 minutes for grooming and tacking up, her lesson is from 10 to 11 AM, and then she untacks and grooms the pony again, and we leave. Most of the other kids untack, brush their ponies, and are out of the stable by 11:15 or 11:20. Not Caroline. She'll groom that week's mount carefully and lovingly, feeding it carrot after carrot while she works. She especially loves to pick the hooves--go figure. Then she goes around and feeds carrots to the other ponies. She always asks the "big girl" counselors (high school girls who help out at the pony school to earn their lessons) for more chores, and usually ends up filling water buckets and sweeping.
I generally sit and watch her lesson, and I used to follow her from the ring back to the stable to watch the untacking/grooming. (One thing I like about this place: they actually send memos home saying "Please do not carry saddles, tack, or with other grooming chores. Horse care is part of the lesson and is your child's responsibility, not yours.") But standing around watching Caroline untack and groom and sweep and such is extremely boring. Now, I to back to the car and read or listen to NPR. And the whole time, I'm hoping she'll hurry up so we can get out of there. Yep, I've even been known to nudge her along impatiently ("C'mon, it's time to go...")
So, this past Sunday, there was a "schooling show" at the pony school. That's basically a tiny, learning horse show for kids. Caroline was eager to ride in it, not because she's competive about the riding, but because it's one more opportunity to spend some time on horseback. She was signed up for 2 basic equitation classes, where she'd just walk, trot, and canter. We arrived and were setting up our camp chairs in a shady patch when Caroline's teacher Nora, the owner of the pony school, approached Caroline and asked Caroline to follow her. (Caroline threw me this look, sort of wide-eyed and nervous, like "Is this OKAY?") I nodded my approval, and off they went. At the end of the class, Nora took Caroline into the center of the ring, and announced that Caroline had won the pony school's Grooming Award, for being the most dedicated and careful groomer of all students who ride at the pony school. She raved about Caroline's dedication and presented her with her OWN grooming kit. Caroline was clearly dumbfounded, but very pleased. She spent pretty much every minute she wasn't on horseback examining her kit, stroking the brushes, and looking proud.
So, here's my IPM: Sometimes others see great things in your child that you forget to notice or appreciate. All that time while Caroline was grooming and hoof-picking and brushing and filling water buckets, while I was wishing she'd hurry up and come to the car so we could leave, her riding teacher was seeing Caroline's extraordinary commitment to riding and her love for the ponies and her responsibility in caring for them. I'm so proud of Caroline for earning that award, and I'm sheepishly ashamed of myself for not seeing and appreciating her effort.
By the way, she did great in her classes: an 8th and a 5th place. Most importantly, she had fun.