As Parents of Boys, Does the Worry Ever End?

This is an older post that I’m re-posting in honor of my son’s 19th birthday  this month and the birth of my stepson’s first child (a boy) due to make his arrival later this month.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a statement that I know a lot of people will have an issue with but it needs to be said so here goes: when it comes to having children, girls are better than boys.

There. It’s said.

19260736And I have to say I welcome any and all to refute or argue that this is not true. My own incontrovertible arguments are below.

It has been my experience as an only girl with three brothers and as the mother of an only boy that a boy is born and then begins a fairly constant campaign of trying to kill himself from then on.

You do not find girls flipping through gun magazines at age eight. You don’t see girls trying to create their own mailbox bomb at ten or taking apart the laptop because “You didn’t look like you were using it much and I wanted to see how it worked.” You just don’t.

I have friends with girl children and they have plenty to complain about but none of the whining or gossiping or nonstop talking or whatever gripe you have about daughters can compare with the worry you must live with on a daily basis when your child is a boy.

My older brother got his pilot’s license on his sixteenth birthday, before he even collected his driver’s license, which he did the very next day. My mother, when it became evident that my son was also mad for jets, said: “Do yourself a favor, forbid him to learn to fly now and save yourself the terror you’ll experience every time he walks out the door.”

Unfortunately, when I laid down the edict to my son, like most things, I went too far. I told him something along the lines of : “I don’t want you to fly as long as I am taking breath on this earth.” Maybe not surprisingly, the thought of my dying does not appear to unduly unsettle him. Rather, he finds himself wondering how old he’ll be (i.e. when I die) and if there’ll be a flying school near his house.

7232917Boys want to do dangerous things with dangerous implements and they want to do them pretty much from the moment they can reach. I have a girlfriend who had three girls before she and her husband were surprised with their last, a boy. She told me the story of how she handed down to this, her last child, a wooden toy that all her daughters had played with as babies. She said the first time she gave it to him—he still couldn’t walk yet—he gave it a whack that broke it into three useless pieces.

Boys are so different.

My husband’s cousin’s son achieved fame within the family (posthumously, I must add) when, clowning around with his pals, he climbed a telephone pole and then reached for the wrong wire.

Can you imagine a girl doing this?

I think being a parent means learning to manage fear just about all the time. When you treasure something that much, you’re constantly worried about losing it, but with a boy, the worry is racheted up several notches higher. I mean, really, what is there to worry about with a girl?

That she’ll drink or do drugs? That worry is not exclusive to girls and boys have a worse peer pressure for doing those kinds of naughty things.

That she’ll be abducted, raped and murdered? Sorry, that also is not exclusive to girls.

That she’ll get pregnant? Please. Not the end of the world. Nobody dies in this scenario. Next.

That she’ll get a DUI (or worse)? New statistics have come out that indicate teenage girls are delaying getting their driver’s licenses. So, fewer of them are driving until later when they’re more mature. Boys are LESS mature at 16 than girls are at that age and THEY are not delaying getting their licenses!

32252586How about that she’ll want to play with guns or bash her brains out playing football or decide to join the Army or take up rock climbing so she can hang from a precipice 10,000 feet up and make you go totally WHITE before your time?

Boys are different.

My son is into backpacking and he’s recently bought a camping hammock. To me, the hammock resembles one of those contraptions you hang bananas in until they ripen, not unlike, I assume, how a hungry bear will view my son.

Which brings me to the end and the seemingly innocuous incident which prompted this post in the first place. Upon returning home from school today, my son grabbed a hatchet and said: “Heading into the woods, Mom, to find something for Dad’s birthday.”

Seriously. Can you honestly imagine a girl uttering these words? (Fortunately, it was a tree, not an animal in his crosshairs but even so, there was blood involved when it was all over.)

Boys. Are. Different.

39176807And finally, what about the undeniable comfort one parent gets from the solidarity of being able to share fears and concerns with the other parent? Let me refute that myth right now. When my husband came home tonight, he dropped his briefcase and headed out the back door, yelling over his shoulder in the direction of my son’s bedroom: “Hurry, John! Neighbor said there’s a nest of copperheads in the back yard.”

Seriously?

ALL. Boys. Are. Different

NB Update: My stepson’s baby wasn’t born “later this month” as I mentioned earlier but the day after I wrote this post, on October 3. So, welcome to the world little Brody–now put down that rattle and get back in that bassinet!

Marriage is No Laughing Matter

A couple well into their nineties are in front of a judge to get final confirmation on their appeal for a divorce. When asked by the judge why, after  seventy years of marriage, they were divorcing now, the couple said: “We wanted to wait until after the children were dead.”

Okay, that’s pretty dark, and I’m sure it says something about my husband and me that it never fails to amuse us, but as I approach the 24th anniversary of the day I met him, I thought I’d wrench myself away from the endless unpacking, writing and equally endless rewriting long enough to share a few thoughts on marriage survival. I guess it’s an obvious no-brainer that with the average divorce rate hovering at 50%, pulling off a long marriage is a tricky wicket taking immense amounts of hard work and commitment, in addition to love. Like everyone else, my husband and I have had our share of ups and downs and in some ways nobody is more surprised than I am to find myself with twenty-three years of marriage under my belt.

The fact is, I married late (I was 37) and while I’m convinced I stumbled into “soul-mate” territory when I finally met my husband, I have to say I’ll encourage my own son to find his mate a whole lot sooner than I did. So along those lines, I’ve compiled a helpful little list to aid him. (He’s always so pleased when I do stuff like this—isn’t your teenager?) Fortunately for him, I’m taking most of the list not from personal experience but from a very sensible, albeit unmarried, expert in the matter, Father Pat Connor—an 80-year old Catholic priest who spent his entire celibate life, including nine years as a missionary in India, working with young people on how to find and have a happy marriage. I have to say there are more points than the six I’ve listed here, so if you want the whole nine yards, check out Father Connor’s book Whom Not to Marry: Time-Tested Advice from a Higher Authority. Meanwhile, my own culled list for my son includes:

  1. Never marry someone who has no friends. When you think about it, it’s what they say about practically every sociopath who’s ever murdered and eaten his neighbors—“he was a loner,” “he  kept to himself.” So maybe some people have to be told not to date obvious serial killers but I think Father Connor’s underlying point here is that a person without a few close friends is probably incapable of the intimacy that marriage demands.
  2. Does your intended partner use money responsibly? Most marriages that founder do so because of money. He’s thrifty, she’s on her tenth credit card. Personally, that seems like a nice balance to me, but all the books say not.
  3. Is he overly attached to his mother? Okay, now as the doting mother of an only son, I didn’t know this was really possible, but this priest (did I mention he never had kids?) says it’s a factor so it’s on the list.
  4. Does he or she have a sense of humor? If your partner makes you laugh, you win. If you make him or her laugh, you win. If you’re laughing because he’s dressing up in your underwear…well, at least you’re laughing. (BTW: why the heck are you laughing?)

Speaking of laughing, and prefacing #5, that reminds me of a joke:

An Amish boy and his father are at a mall. They’re amazed by everything they see but especially by two shiny silver walls that move apart and back together again by themselves. The lad asks his dad: “What is that?” The father, having never seen an elevator before, says: “I have no idea.” While the boy and his father were watching, wide-eyed, an old lady in a wheelchair rolls up to the moving walls and presses a button. The walls open and she rolls into a small room behind the doors. The doors close and the boy and his father watch as small circles light up above them. Within seconds, the doors open again and a beautiful young woman walks out. The father looks at his son anxiously and says: “Go get your mother.”

Which brings us to…

5.  Don’t marry someone thinking you will change him. I remember asking a friend of mine who was on the brink of her divorce many years ago and who was complaining graphically about how hard she tried to change her awful and soon-to-be-ex during their marriage. When I asked if she succeeded in changing him at all, she thought about it and said, yes, he got worse.

6. Unreal expectations. Self-explanatory but here’s something to drive it home:

One day, a magic fairy visits a lonely spinster and offers her three wishes.
“I wish I was 21 again!” The wish is instantly granted.
“I wish I had a million dollars!” The wish is granted.
“I wish my cat here was the most handsome guy in the world and was madly in love with me.” The wish is granted. The young babe and her guy go inside and start to cuddle and the man looks at her and says: “Now aren’t you sorry you had me fixed?” (This is also known as the “be careful what you wish for” syndrome.)

Bottom line, unless you’re an unmarried priest, (just kidding, Father!) marriage is not easy. In fact, I think I’ll probably skip all the Huffington post ten-steps-to-finding-a-perfect-mate type advice for my son and just opt for a more time-tested parcel of advice in the immortal words of the Apostle Paul (he was married, right?)

“In all your dealings with one another, speak the truth to one another in love that you may grow up.”

Come to think of it, that’s pretty good advice for all of us.
So, what do you think? Got a maxim you live by to better live together? Love to hear it!

Empty Nesting is Not for the Faint of Heart

I swear to you, as God is my witness, that I turned my back to make my eight-year old son a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and when I turned around, he had graduated high school and left for college.

This is not hyperbole.

Well, okay, it is. But I swear it feels like it’s true.
I cannot believe it’s nearly time for him to leave already. I can’t believe all the school pictures that I have been painstakingly placing in the photo albums through the years are now finished. I hold the final and last one in my fingers. This photo of him grinning–so self-assured!–in his tuxedo and too-long hair (a little senioritis rebellion) is the endcap for his school years that began with the  mother’s morning out that he and I pretended was “real” school, because he went with a backpack and a snack and came home with praise from the “teachers” and excited reports about the other kids on the playground—particularly fascinating for an only child.
And now he’ll be “coming home” at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I feel like turning to my husband and saying: “Did you know there was an end date?” Why don’t they tell you that when you bring your little bundle of joy home from the hospital? “Hey, New Mom, word to the wise.  He’s already plotting how to leave home.”
While it’s true I have a couple months yet before we pack John Patrick’s bags and shop for his dorm furniture, I already see previews of the life to come in how his older friends, home for the holidays last year, behaved (so grown up!) and in John Patrick’s impatience this spring with his last few months of high school.
I  promised myself that I was not going to be one of those clingy mothers who refuses to let her child stretch his wings and fly the nest. I want my son to have an awesome college experience, maybe meet someone special who we’ll all grow to enjoy and love.

But until then, I totally reserve the right (when he’s not present to witness it) to be as sad and bereft as I know how to be at the ending to what was, honestly, the happiest and most fulfilling eighteen years of my life.

I know he’s literally counting the weeks until he goes. He’s anticipating the official beginning of his new exciting life. That’s as it should be. His Dad and I will wait for him to come home and report on his new world, his teachers, and new friends. Before he leaves again.

And it figures, the dog he leaves behind doesn’t even like peanut butter & jelly.

It’s A Scary World Out There

Long before social media put us into each other’s pockets and  thoughts on a moment to moment basis, we had discovered that bad things were happening all over the world. We weren’t just hearing from the next-door neighbor that somebody on our street had fallen down dead for no reason—we were also hearing about bizarre and awful things happening from as far away as Sidney, Australia. And when you hear about the problems of the WORLD in a steady stream, it starts to make you feel like bad stuff is constantly happening everywhere all the time.

I don’t think I’m unusual in my certainly irrational anxiety as I’ve watched my son go from one life experience to the next. Added to the worries of the last generation of “when she starts driving will she have an accident?” is the new concern: “will she have an accident and then be abducted by a serial killer because I know for a fact that can happen.” I’m not saying information is bad. We as a people long to know what’s going on with each other. Although Americans have been accused of only being interested in what’s happening in their own backyards, I think we’re all curious about the human condition wherever it is. It’s just that, instead of registering: “yep, that’s awful” over the discovery of a shocking story, we tend to gather up all the horrible, shocking stories (or rather the media does) and stack them up so high around us that all we see is a shocking and horrible world. And that is the world we are sending our treasured sons and daughters off into. Can they help but be timorous after twenty years of watching Mom & Dad hold their collective breath every time they tried something new?

I don’t think my own parents loved me any less than I love my son. But they allowed me the freedom to experience life on my own terms that I have never been comfortable giving him. (When my father was stationed overseas in the early sixties, my little brothers and I freely wandered post-war Germany like scavaging souvenir-hunters, happily dragging home ancient hand grenades and unexploded bombs. Come to think of it, my parents may have been a little more laid back than most.)

Possibly it was ignorance. In those days, you didn’t hear the words “child molester” or commonly consider the possibility that dear old Uncle Ray might be inappropriately eyeing your son or daughter. It  never occurred to you not to let your child ride his bike wherever he wanted to go, or even be gone for the full day if that’s where his adventures took him. Was it really a “kinder, gentler” time as George Bush, Sr used to say? Or was it just a time where bad stuff  happened and our parents were oblivious to it? Are the fears we have today real? Or are they just a reaction to the flood of horror stories we now all hear about in the world community?

View from a Nearly Empty Nest

I hate to say it, but the facts are stark and irrefutable: we have too many animals.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if they were self-sufficient dear little things but they all have major baggage which they unpack and throw about the room on a daily basis. The cats are, well, cats. Their love is contingent on whether or not you gave them “the wet stuff” that night for dinner or let them outside to sun on the deck (they are indoor cats) or in some way did something for them. And it’s a pretty paltry sort of love, I have to say, when it does come. Cats aren’t clingy and for that I’m grateful. But they’re not particularly affectionate either (at least ours aren’t) and it makes you wonder why you pay all the vet bills and Meow Mix and God knows, tons of kitty litter. Really doesn’t seem to be the kind of payback that you’d expect for all the effort and money. Having said that, we are, of course, attached to the aloof little beasties, but ideal pets I cannot say they are.

So the cats, not so much. And les chiens? Well, Buddy is beautiful but stupid which doesn’t matter, really, because he’s also desperately sweet. But he has none of the beneficial dog traits you use to reason why you have a dog for all the trouble. He doesn’t greet you when you come home (he doesn’t even lift his head off the couch pillow), he doesn’t sleep with you at night, he sometimes forgets that it’s the outdoors where he’s supposed to crap (WTH…??) and he will eat cat litter (and all that that entails) if there is any way possible. Euweeeu.

Then there is Lucy the Puppy. Also known as Lucy the Terrible and Lucy the All-Powerful who is, on the other hand, really, really smart. Like Lex Luther smart or some other mad, evil genius. Lucy, who is a Westie, tortures the poor cats—fearlessly and tenaciously attempting to rid the household of what she considers Grade A vermin. She destroys everything she comes into contact with—newspapers, slippers, measuring cups, dog and cat toys, eye glasses—in seconds and irrevocably. She does, on the other hand, go totally berserk with happiness when she sees you after any kind of separation (Buddy, take notes.) She considers it part of her job to “pre-rinse” (with her tongue) the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and she informs all chipmunks, squirrels, mice, birds, bunnies and even a good sized coyote to stay clear of her yard. (Come to think of it, she’s also had words with the mailman.)

I confess I often wish I didn’t have quite so many lovies. All the water bowl filling, litter box changing, dog leashes, unique needs, prickly personalities, special diets, accidents, varying bed times and crate times—is wearing me out. My husband is quick to remind me that I was the one who got us into this fix (three of the four were foundlings) with all their diverse and discordant personalities.

On top of that, they all somewhat hate each other, with the exception of Lucy who’d like to do her rat-terrier thing on the cats’ necks but who loves Buddy in a very scary, stalking kind of way that has the poor dog hiding under sofas and behind chairs when she’s on the loose.

While I admit I have told my husband that we will never replace a single one of these beloved creatures when the time comes for us to forge on alone, I have to say I’m rethinking that promise. It’s not that any of the little darlings is any more perfect. God knows, if anything, the older they get, (like people) the more entrenched their personalities and habits become. I’m not sure but it’s possible my change of heart may have something to do with the sound of my only child shuffling through his college acceptances for next fall.

Maybe a Cockatiel.

Living Your Dream at the Worst Possible Time

Ten years ago I  wrote a book called “Quit Your Job, Move to Paris.” I wrote it after a young dewy-eyed college grad interviewed with me at the bank where I was working in the advertising department. (Dear God, I’m depressing myself just writing the words.) She’d recently graduated with a degree in advertising and wanted to know what she should do to, basically, get my job. I looked at her and asked: “Are you married?” She blushed prettily and shook her head. I said: “So no kids?” She reddened not so prettily and frowned at me. “Of course not,” she said. “Do you own your own home?” “I’m only 21,” she replied, as if speaking to a seriously mentally impaired individual. (Kind of like how my teenager speaks to me all the time but that’s another blog.) I said: “So, no ties, no mortgage, no private school tuition. My advice to you is…” She poised her little pen over her little steno pad.

Well, you can probably guess what I said (see above title of aforementioned book) and she did not appreciate being led on as she put it. In addition to being a new college graduate, she also happened to be the daughter of the bank’s vice president so I’m not sure why she even bothered to get my take on anything. She should’ve just gone to her Dad and said: “I want her job, please, Daddy.”

But see, I had a mortgage and a kid (plus two step-kids, but again, another time, another blog) and the idea of “living my passion” or waking up and smelling the croissants on the Rue de la Paix or spending a year writing a novel was about as possible as starring in a Broadway musical. She was young. She had her whole life ahead of her. Her choices hadn’t been made yet. From my perspective, I thought she should take advantage of her freedom while she had it, as if passion—for writing or travel or acting or anything—would dry up or run out like sand in an hourglass.

When I wrote the “Quit Your Job” book, I ended up researching various chapters on different life situations to suggest ways and ideas of how moving to Paris for a period of time might be possible: married with kids, single with kids, etc. During the course of my research, I discovered how it would be possible for me to go, too. The  information I came up with for my own situation was good and bad. The good news was: I learned I could go! I learned how I could make it happen! The bad news was: I chose not to. Yeah, I know. That part sucked. But it still helped to know I had a choice. I didn’t pack up the kid and the husband and shoot off to France in 2001 because when I sat down and thought about it, I realized I wanted other things more. Things that couldn’t happen if I took the Paris option at that time.

Funny thing about passion, though. If it’s real, it tends to stay with you. I don’t work in a corporate advertising department any more. I write full time. As for the Paris thing, well, my son is sifting through his college acceptances even as we speak which means, next year, he’s launched into his grand adventure. And guess what? Turns out, Paris is still there!

Seems that silly college girl was right about one thing: there really isn’t a time limit on passions after all.

As Parents of Boys: Does the Worry EVER End?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a statement that I know a lot of people will have an issue with but it needs to be said so here goes: when it comes to having children, girls are better than boys.

There. It’s said.

And I have to say I welcome any and all to refute or argue that this is not true. My own incontrovertible arguments are below.

It has been my experience as an only girl with three brothers and as the mother of an only boy that a boy is born and then begins a fairly constant campaign of trying to kill himself from then on.

You do not find girls flipping through gun magazines at age eight. You don’t see girls trying to create their own mailbox bomb at ten or taking apart the laptop because “You didn’t look like you were using it much and I wanted to see how it worked.” You just don’t.

I have friends with girl children and they have plenty to complain about but none of the whining or gossiping or nonstop talking or whatever gripe you have about daughters can compare with the worry you must live with on a daily basis when your child is a boy.

My older brother got his pilot’s license on his sixteenth birthday, before he even collected his driver’s license, which he did the very next day. My mother, when it became evident that my son was also mad for jets, said: “Do yourself a favor, forbid him to learn to fly now and save yourself the terror you’ll experience every time he walks out the door.”

Unfortunately, when I laid down the edict to my son, like most things, I went too far. I told him something along the lines of : “I don’t want you to fly as long as I am taking breath on this earth.” Maybe not surprisingly, the thought of my dying does not appear to unduly unsettle him. Rather, he finds himself wondering how old he’ll be (i.e. when I die) and if there’ll be a flying school near his house.

Boys want to do dangerous things with dangerous implements and they want to do them pretty much from the moment they can reach. I have a girlfriend who had three girls before she and her husband were surprised with their last, a boy. She told me the story of how she handed down to this, her last child, a wooden toy that all her daughters had played with as babies. She said the first time she gave it to him—he still couldn’t walk yet—he gave it a whack that broke it into three useless pieces.

Boys are so different.

My husband’s cousin’s son achieved fame within the family (posthumously, I must add) when, clowning around with his pals, he climbed a telephone pole and then reached for the wrong wire.

Can you imagine a girl doing this?

“A daughter is a daughter all of her life, a son is a son ‘til he takes a wife.

I have quoted this line to friends who had baby girls for years before I became a parent myself. I am that kind of daughter. The kind who calls and worries and visits and keeps my parents, now just my mother, in my daily thoughts and activities. On more than one occasion, my son, now seventeen, has offered the lawn mower shed to his father and me in the backyard of whatever home he eventually moves to when we are in our dotage.

I think being a parent means learning to manage fear just about all the time. When you treasure something that much, you’re constantly worried about losing it, but with a boy, the worry is racheted up several notches higher. I mean, really, what is there to worry about with a girl?

That she’ll drink or do drugs? That worry is not exclusive to girls and boys have a worse peer pressure for doing those kinds of naughty things.

That she’ll be abducted, raped and murdered? Sorry, that also is not exclusive to girls.

That she’ll get pregnant? Please. Not the end of the world. Nobody dies in this scenario. Next.

That she’ll get a DUI (or worse)? New statistics have come out that indicate teenage girls are delaying getting their driver’s licenses. So, fewer of them are driving until later when they’re more mature. Boys are LESS mature at 16 than girls are at that age and THEY are not delaying getting their licenses!

How about that she’ll want to play with guns or bash her brains out playing football or decide to join the Army or take up rock climbing so she can hang from a precipice 10,000 feet up and make you go totally WHITE before your time?

Boys are different.

My son is into backpacking and he’s recently bought a camping hammock. To me, the hammock resembles one of those contraptions you hang bananas in until they ripen, not unlike, I assume, how a hungry bear will view my son.

Which brings me to the end and the seemingly innocuous incident which prompted this post in the first place. Upon returning home from school today, my son grabbed a hatchet and said: “Heading into the woods, Mom, to find something for Dad’s birthday.”

Seriously. Can you honestly imagine a girl uttering these words? (Fortunately, it was a tree, not an animal in his crosshairs but even so, there was blood involved when it was all over.)

Boys. Are. Different.

And finally, what about the undeniable comfort one parent gets from the solidarity of being able to share fears and concerns with the other parent? Let me refute that myth right now. When my husband came home tonight, he dropped his briefcase and headed out the back door, yelling over his shoulder in the direction of my son’s bedroom: “Hurry, John! Neighbor said there’s a nest of copperheads in the back yard.”

Seriously?

ALL. Boys. Are. Different.

Final 10 Things My Horse Taught Me About Being a Mother

An AARP article a few years ago listed the sorts of personalities that tended to make the best Moms. Now, I know this is grossly subjective but like all things smarting of common sense, the article felt right. It said the number one personality that made the best Mom was the high school cheerleader, the close-second was the tom-boy, (go figure!) and the third highest ranked was the equestrienne. (Personally, I would’ve combined the second and third since most equestriennes I know are very tomboyish but I supposed there are some girly equestriennes.)

Which brings me to the final 10 items in my Top 20 Things My Horse Taught Me About Being a Mom:

  1. Pride of Presentation. The forerunner to my desire to dress my five-year old son like his last name ends with “Fauntelroy” had to be found in the many happy hours I spent braiding my horse’s mane, show-sheening his coat, and brushing his tail.
  2. Fearlessness. There is a saying in horsey circles that addresses scary moments, like when you approach a jump or coop. The saying goes that you should “throw your heart over first, and the horse will follow.” The adage means to say that if you’re ready for the jump, the horse will be, too. And, on the other hand, if you’re not too sure about that five-foot water-jump, well, don’t count on Thunder to sign on for the trip. This idea translates beautifully to motherhood. Whether you’ve facing a high fence with a jittery purebred under you and a stand full of people watching you, or bravely staring down a defiant three-year old in a fully-packed grocery store—the principle is the same. Act like you mean it and there’s a good chance he’ll believe you.
  3. Kiss the boo-boos. I recently read that 73% of mothers comfort their child first before examining or treating the child’s hurt. While I can say I certainly spoke soothingly to my horse while I dabbed on topical analgesics to his various cuts, I can’t say he was very impressed. Nonetheless, it was good practice for the little boy who would come later who definitely appreciated his mother’s words and touch during a trying time.
  4. Be mindful of the company he keeps. The proper equine pals will bat flies off your horse’s face with their tails and run up and down the pasture with him for hours (mindlessly, one presumes) until they all flop down on the ground, panting and happy. Unfortunately, the reverse is true, too. Blithely releasing your horse into the pasture without checking out the field can have you retrieving him the next day with big bite-marks on his neck and rump. I always knew which horses in the barn were friendly sorts and which ones to keep Prince away from, and I took even more care with my son’s playdates. And that went double when he got to middle school.
  5. Keeping things in perspective. I don’t care how hard you trained for the three-day event when Jiffy went lame at the last minute or how clean he looked after his bath (and just before he rolled in the dirt), none of it amounts to a hill of manure as long as he’s not tangled up in barbed wire or given himself colic because he got into the unlocked feed bin. By the same token, a situation where your three-old throws his metal truck into your flat screen in the middle of a tantrum is not the end of the world. Period. It’s a huge, expensive pain but it’s not worth getting derailed over. Losing him in a crowd at the mall—even for a few seconds—or watching your babysitter roll in from the local DQ with your toddler unrestrained in the front seat—is.
  6. It’s Fun to Get Dirty.
  7. It’s Fun to Play in the Rain.
  8. Eat Your Vegetables. My horses loved watermelon, apples, corn and sweet carrots. Coincidentally, they were my son’s favorites too. (He passed on the sweet feed.)
  9. Proper dental care is essential. While I don’t have to float my son’s teeth periodically (taking a huge file and whittling them down in the back) as I did with my mare, I am very aware of how often and well he flosses.
  10. Hugs are better when they’re returned. Having and caring for a horse involves a kind of love. It’s a source of pleasure, frustration, endless expense and hard work and most horse people think it’s worth it. A child, on the other hand, is all that, plus he probably won’t be the reason you show up at work with a limp or your arm in a cast (hopefully not, anyway.) And while I have often hugged my horse, nothing compares with the hugs I gave (and got) from my kids.

So, take it from me and my experience with a long line of horses, kids (and stepkids!), whether you’re a teenager looking to buy your first horse or a grown woman with a stable full at your beck and call, the things you can learn from the world of riding, riders and the ridden can prove enormously helpful later on if you ever decide to pick up the Mommy gig.

What about you? Do you ride? Are you a Mom? Do you have another hobby that you think has helped make you a better parent? Love to hear from you!