Thursday, February 10, 2011

On Being Surpassed By One's Child...

As a parent, you want your kids to be more successful than you were.  You want them to get better grades, be better athletes, and be more successful financially.  You spend your whole life nagging at them so that this natural order of things happens as its supposed to.

At least, until the child beats you at your own game.  I gotta wonder how former NFL quarterback Archie Manning really felt when he realized that Peyton was going to make him look like a scrub?  Let's get real, here.  Certainly the man was thrilled that his boy had serious talent, but don't you think there was a moment or two of sadness that Archie himself was no longer top dog?   I think I may have a little insight into a few of the thoughts that may have passed through Archie's head.

My daughter also rides.  This is nice, in that we have a lot of together time.  She's progressed to a point where we can also occasionally lesson together.  Occassionally, this is maybe a tad too much together time. 

In a recent lesson our trainer, Annabel,  wanted to work on turning.  Specifically, concentrating on using the outside leg and rein aids, as well as your eyes, to turn the horse.  To increase the level of difficulty, she took the reins over the horse's heads and then handed both to us to hold in the outside hand.  Sugar, my mare, was visibly unimpressed, and her expression clearly let us know her feelings about having to play "reining pony."

We spend several minutes trotting and cantering on a circle, and spiralling in and then out and then reversing on that circle, all the while trying to avoid running each other over.  Not exactly easy. Then Annabel upped the ante: We were to canter the horses on the circle and jump them over a small cavaletti.  Not only were we to steer them with the reins in one hand AND get them to jump smoothly in stride, all the while cantering on a (ostensibly) round circle, she wanted us to count our strides to the jump!  So, at some point while we were approaching the cavaletti, we were supposed to decide if we were, say, 5 strides away from the fence and count down, hopefully arriving at the jump when we got to "1".

Now, math has never been my strong point.  I tapped out somewhere during Intro To Algebra.  Something about letters and numbers together just struck me as violently against the order of nature and that was the end of it for me.  Multitasking is also a challenge.  That rubbing your stomach and patting your head thing?  Dang near impossible for me and a sure indicator that a visit to the ER is fast approaching.  So, counting and riding was bound to present a problem. 

It certainly did.  I barrelled around, huffing and puffing and calling out numbers and interjections when, try as I might, I  still failed to arrive at take-off at "1".  Sophie and Annabel were having giggle fits.  I was only marginally irked by my incompetence, until my daughter tried the exercise.  That little imp of mine cantered merrily around at speed, calling out "5-4-3-2-1" and jumping like a little gazelle.  "4-3-2-1" she'd crow, taking off at the perfect distance when she got to the "1". "3-2-1" she'd cry, just to add a little variety to things.

As if this wasn't bad enough, Annabel decided it would be even more valuable to have us count down to the fence backwards.  Good grief!  She might has well have asked me to run the 40 in less than a week and a half!  Off I'd go, only to get to the fence, jump it, and realize I'd never starting counting.  In either direction.  Period.  Then I'd circle back around, and try again, only to face my daughter and trainer, both laughing openly at me because I'd remembered to count (thank God for small favors) but in ascending order.  Right. The old multi-tasking bugaboo rearing it's ugly head.

By this point I was bound and determined.  My horse was at the point where SHE was ready to count the strides, in Roman numerals, to bring this exercise to a close.  By this point my daughter and my trainer were prostrate with laughter, tears streaming down their faces.  Round and around I went, red faced and cussing, until finally we met with success.  Needless to say, you can probably guess what happened next.  Sophie and her pony traipsed around, hitting their distances and counting (in descending order, as requested) strides, perfectly darn near every time.

I was proud as can be.  It's not the first time Sophie's surpassed my abilities.  She's better at soccer, gymnastics, basketball, and Connect Four.  I'll also be the first to admit it: I have fantasies that Sophie will continue riding and continue to do well at it.  I'd LOVE to see her have opportunties I didn't, and would one day love to stand ringside as she rides in the Medal, Maclay, or USET Talent Search Finals, or (GASP) a major Grand Prix.  If that's what she wants, I want it for her, and will do whatever I can to help her get it. 

For all the pride, there is a bittersweetness to it as well.  Yeah, there's a part of me that wanted to shake her for succeeding so effortlessly at something I've tried so hard at, something that has always meant so much to me.  If I'm honest, for all I want her to surpass me, there's a small piece of me that wishes I'd been better so that she couldn't.  Is this because as a parent, you want your child always to look up to you, or are there more selfish motivations at work here.  I don't know - I haven't honestly figured it out yet.

So back to Archie and Peyton.  You can absolutely tell, when you see Archie up in the press box rooting his boy on, that he is proud as a peacock and wants nothing but success for his boy.  But I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts there was a moment, probably on a day when Archie felt his "courtesy of the NFL" arthritis kick in,  that his tow-haired haired future phenom threw a long bomb for a touchdown and Archie felt the same bittersweet combination of pride and sadness that I did.

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