Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Unexpected Lessons

Last weekend, Eden entered his first official horse show.  He looked forward to it for months. Weeks prior to the big day, he spent every spare moment at the Ranch practicing and preparing Rev, his borrowed horse.  Eden loves it her like his own.

Every night, he walked through the door smelling like a barn, removed his dusty boots, and went upstairs to do homework.  Then he slept.  His days were long, but he didn't seem to mind.  He loves riding, and caring for horses.

A year ago, I wouldn't have believed that Eden could keep such a busy schedule with school, homework, and early morning bible study at 6:00 a.m.  I guess when you are doing something you love, you find the time and energy to fit it in, in spite of life's responsibilities.

Show day came, and at the crack of dawn, Eden made ready doning a white shirt, tie, black coat, and tall boots. He looked like a Ralph Lauren ad.  As he threw his gear in the car,  wasn't nervous at all, just excited, and hopeful; hopeful that he would win.

We drove to a ranch down the road from Green Acres, pulled into a dusty lot filled with horse trailers, and parked next to next an Easy-up.  Eden got out of the car and found his trainer while I visited with the Suttons, our next-door-neighbors who also love to ride.  Their daughter Makyla had entered the show too.

An hour later, the first event began as Eden, Makayla and 8 others rode their horses around an fenced arena performing the commands of a judge;

reverse walk

When it was over, the riders lined up in the center of the field to hear the results.  The first place winner was announced over the loud speaker and I saw a girl on a black horse smile.  She gave a nod to the judges and excited the ring.  Second place came next, and that went to Makayla, our neighbor. She's been waiting 4 years to claim a prize and today, it happened.  She rode off beaming with joy.

The announcer went on and on until all the prizes had been awarded, and the last man stood -- rather sat on a horse, alone in the center of the ring.

I wondered why they didn't announce in reverse --  giving the winner all the glory and attention there in the arena.  I found it awkward watching that line dwindle down to one last person, who knew he would be on display as the guy who finished last.   I sat there wincing as the line got smaller and smaller, while realizing there was a person for whom it was worse -- the guy who sat solo in the center of the ring, Eden.

One of the hardest jobs as a parent is watching your children go through painful experiences -- seeing their face when you know that they are hurting, or embarrassed, while onlookers watch. You ache for them more than you would if it were actually happening to you, which is how I felt watching Eden.  Even though he was smiling, I knew by the look on his face that all he wanted to do is get in the car and leave.

He had been so hopeful as he prepared that morning, and now instead of a dream come true, he was living his worst fear -- losing in front of a crowd.   There wasn't a prize, or hearty congratulations as he rode off the field,  just a few weak claps as people busied themselves for the next event.

When I found him, he was standing with his friends congratulating their success as they gave enrouragement in return:  Don't give up Eden, it's your first show, you're doing just great.    He nodded, and walked towards me; the bounce in his step, gone.  He asked if I would take him to get something to eat, so we got in the car, and took a lunch break.   As we drove to the local fast food joint, he broke down.   Mom,  all that work for nothing.   I feel so stupid . . . I have three more events, and just know I'm going to be standing there alone again . . . I am never going to be good at this . . .  I hate being last. 

I sat there listening, a little worried about what I could possibly say to make my son feel better.  Sometimes I lack the skills I need to help my children, and it's usually during moments such as this.   I've learned though, that the most powerful tool I have as a parent is heavenly help, that can be accessed any time that I ask.  So I said a little prayer in my head and in a matter of moments, the words came.

I can't remember all that I said, but it included: I am so proud of you for working so hard, and putting yourself out there . . . it doesn't matter that you win, what matters is that you love doing what you do . . . ride because it fills your soul with happiness, no one can take that way from you . . . there will come a day when you will remember this moment, and perhaps feel a little more compassion for another guy who finishes last --  that person may be your own child . . . by chance if you you do win a blue ribbon, receive it with grace . . . Sometimes things don't work out the way you had planned, but even when they don't,  get back on the horse {no pun intended.}

After a while Eden's spirits lifted.   He guzzled down a soda, and we went back to the ranch for the rest of the show.

Two hours later, we were back at the ring.  I was a nervous wreck.  I think Eden was too.   This time, there wasn't a line-up at the end, which was a big relief.  Rather,  the contestants had to go to the judges area to view the results, posted on a list.  I stayed behind and Eden walked over alone.  I watched in the distance as he moved his finger down a white paper to find his name.  Then I saw it:

pats on the back,
and a blue ribbon in his hand.

My eyes teared up.   I was so happy for him; that his dream came true, and he got to experience what it was like to succeed.

But, at the end of the day, I think the greater prize for both of us were the lessons learned from finishing last.



Eve said...

Well, now I'M crying. Thanks for nothing. (And by "nothing", I mean "that sweet, heart-melting, happy story". Of course.)

Eunice said...

Great story Crystal. Thanks for posting it. To Eden, thanks for letting your mom post it and congratulations on a memorable day.

Kimberlee said...

Wow, I felt that with you.
That's some hard lessons so early in the week.
Good, but hard.
Thanks for sharing that with all of us.

kate said...

What a beautiful, brave post. It broke MY heart so I can't even imagine what you felt. I'm crying in my morning coffee. Good for Eden, for getting back in the ring.

Amy said...

Oh my goodness, Crystal. I'm in tears. TEARS, I tell ya! What a beautiful post. And what a great example both of you were...I know some who wouldn't have competed, wouldn't have finished what they started. Sad! It's so hard being a Momma! My heart broke for him as I read this! Loved it.

Family of 4.... said...

Hi Crystal,

I have bought some earrings from your Etsy shop and I found your blog (and a few others!) and have been reading your posts.

This is a great story and one that inspires me. I am a mother of two adopted girls (they were just 4 and 6 when they came home) who are 7 and 9 (one with some special needs). I love reading your blog posts and I went back and read the archives. I like how you have shown what it is like to parent children at various ages. Some of your posts have really resonated with me at times.

Congrats to Eden, too!


Meg Duerksen said...

oh my goodness crystal.
i am crying A LOT.
i hate seeing that for anyone.
i remember crying at a basketball game with a mom last year because the coach never put her son in. it was sickening to everyone but the coach. i couldn't look at her with out crying.
good job!
parenting is HARD!!!

Jenni said...

i was up way to late last night and actually read this right before i fell asleep, with tears streaming down my face and the biggest knot in my throat.

what a beautiful message and lesson to learn. my heart broke for eden, but your words were powerful and i am so proud of him for getting back in that ring.

Bethany said...

You are so right - those are the lessons that shape character. He is a gorgeous young man, and experiences like this will ensure he has all the inside traits to make him an amazing MAN!

Rosie said...

when I grow up I hope that I can write as lovely as you! YOu really do have a gift!

I didn't get registered for Spark! I just sent a daughter to college so the finances are tight.

I am totally jealous about all your fabulous trips you have been on! The Blue Lily experience sounds wonderful!

YOu wrote about a gross teenage girl bathroom. We totally understand! OUr teenage girl went to college a month ago and the bathroom has been clean the entire time! We didn't dare go in without a hazmat suit while she was using it!

Keep writing. Someday I hope that we can visit-maybe someday I can come to your retreat.