I grew up in the Bronx. I used to like to say I was “from the block” (like J Lo) which of course made my mother cringe. We lived in an apartment building, took the city bus to school, and played kick ball during “gym”. So, I am very surprised to find myself hauling my daughter to horseback riding lessons once a week. I know nothing of horses. I don’t even really like them – they are big, dangerous, expensive, and they smell. But, my daughter loves them. She always has. So, I drive her 20 minutes out of town each Wednesday night and sit a freezing cold room reading while she grooms, rides, grooms again, and then drive 20 minutes back into town.
She always leaves pretty happy, except for the time when she fell off the horse and was crying. She tried to be brave but I could tell she was scared and wounded and she couldn’t stop the tears. But as cliché as it sounds, she just got right back into the saddle again and I was proud of her.
Horseback riding seems totally out of character for my little 10-year-old princess. She usually doesn’t like to exert herself too much, get dirty, or be cold. She will even describe herself as one who likes to be “pampered”. During her time at the horse barn she uncharacteristically pushes a giant horse around, throws on its saddle and gets the horse to put the bit in its mouth (excuse me if I have confused you in any way – I don’t speak horse).
Horseback has shown me that she is far more competent than I give her credit for. It also shows me that all this “pampered” talk is baloney and perhaps I should push her a little harder into some other activities, like skiing, snowboarding, or soccer. But most importantly, horseback has given her a way to be good at something without competing with anyone else in the family. It is hers alone.
And so I stuff food into her body earlier than our usual time and disrupt the evening rhythm for the rest of us so that she can have her time at the barn. I will let go of my roots so that she can plant her own. She is her own person and I want her to feel strong and brave and independent. That is until we are safely back into the car, seatbelts fastened, and she can tell me all about it.