I wish I’d had the chance to do that.
Have you ever played this record in your conversations with your kids? Er, yep! Like so many parents we strive, sacrifice and stress out about the extra-curricular lessons. About making sure our babies are keeping up with the full gamut of opportunities. “Who knows what their ‘thing’ will be? They certainly won’t be left behind their peers, let’s try them all!”
In our particular parenting story, it began with swimming at 8mths old. I had read somewhere that the earlier lessons for swimming begin, the better for the child. So she began. We’d rock up to our sauna of an indoor swimming complex with all the bells and whistles to make the lesson thing run smoothly. Towels and nappies and spare bum-cream and a bottle for after and a snack just in case, organic baby wash for the showers, a fresh set of clothes for after, the pram, water and a snack for us. Seriously, we were prepared! The whole palaver took three hours.
Baby gym was next, because according to my sources, without the right/left brain coordination she would never develop correctly. We ran around the obstacle course lifting, flying, chanting “Good! Aaaaand, left leg UP, good girl!” By the end of each session she was sound asleep in the car seat and I was ready to curl up with a blankie and a dummy myself. And yet we pushed on. No way my girl was going to have my coordination issues, my fear of water, my mediocre ballet career….
Ballet. Shoes, tights, leotard, videoing on my phone so we could practise the steps at home. Mums all peering through the studio windows, desperate to see their babies dancing, anxiously comparing, heads nodding with the beat, toes flexing in their shoes, hands occasionally fluttering away from their sides. Aaaaand, breeeeathe.
Netball Mums, yelling from the sidelines “SHOOT! FIND A SPACE! !!!REF!!! C’MON!” quiet conferences between Mums and sideways glances, passive aggressive conversations with coach. Pep talks on the way home from practise, try harder, use your head, toughen up, listen to your coach, mark your opposition!
Gymnastics, Tennis, Hip hop, Art class, Trampolining, Ukulele, Theatre Arts, Mind Lab, Digital Music Composition. Oh goodness. I list them all and I am ashamed. How many hoops has my baby jumped through to satisfy my vicarious ambitions? So many. Too many. How many dollars have we funnelled into the accomplishments of our daughter? How many times have I berated her, and behooved her to make more effort? I try not to, but I confess, often I see her as second-chance-me. She can have the opportunities I lacked, try the things I wasn’t brave enough to try, be the girl I wanted to be.
But what does she want to do?
Only one thing.
The only one thing that she has ever wanted to do.
The only one thing I know nothing about (ouch. ….any wonder why?!)
The only one thing she has ever enjoyed, out of all of them. My girl will do anything to be near a horse, to ride a horse, to scoop the poop of a horse and pick the hoof of a horse. At first I didn’t encourage her, isn’t horse riding for the elite? That’s just not us, sweetie. She persistently begged me from four years old. Horse themed birthday parties were as far as I went. But her innate passion wouldn’t give up its grip on her. She is a horsey girl through and through. And so, I let go of my other ambitions, I had to. Horse riding isn’t fiscally friendly! She has proven across the years that this horse thing is no passing phase.
So there she goes. Taking a chance, that is nothing to do with what I didn’t get to do. We were forecast for a tropical cyclone today. I woke to the sound of the wind whipping around the house in the dark of early morning. I hoped that maybe, she’d say “Let’s give it a miss today, Mum”. But no, she was already up, already in her gear and chomping at the bit (pardon the pun). I watched her circling the arena in the rain, her little face peeping out from under her riding helmet and raincoat, wreathed in smiles. It makes me laugh at myself. She’s found her bliss. If only I had listened to her a little earlier I might have discovered my own. Because there is no joy like watching your child do something they love to do. Even in a storm. My girl enjoys jumping over hoops more than jumping through them, and at last, I understand what she is teaching me. “Let me be who I am Mum, not who you wanted to be”.
Guess I am a slow learner!