As I drove by the farm down our road, I looked longingly at the little girl riding her horse around the ring. Last fall, Ada had taken a few lessons there…and by a “few,” I mean exactly four, because it had cost us a hundred bucks for those four precious lessons.
I’ll admit it–I was totally living vicariously through Ada, as it has always been my secret desire to know how to ride horses. I’ve never actually done it, save one time when I was about six and my dad coughed up some change for me to ride one of those ponies that go around in a circle and poop at a local fair.
I really wanted Ada to have that experience I never had and blahblahblah, so down the road we went. This lady had those giant Budweiser horses and Ada was only three at the time, so I really wasn’t sure how that would all go down, but she loved it. I mean, really loved it. Had no fear whatsoever. It was so much fun to watch her (isn’t it weird how, as parents, our fun is now watching our kids??) and I felt proud that I could expose her to that at such an early age. I felt like I was doing my job as a parent.
This year, however, there just isn’t the money for it. I think of all the things I’d like to put her and Mya in–gymnastics classes, piano (also something I secretly always wanted to learn! Shhh…) swimming lessons, how cute they would look in little ballerina tutus–and I feel disheartened. What if they have some secret great talent lying dormant, just waiting to be discovered? What if they would have made it to the Olympics if only I had enrolled them in gymnastics at age two? A music scholarship? Equestrian team?
I feel like there is a lot of pressure on us parents of young children. We are told, over and over, how their little brains are developing so much right now, building all those synapses and foundations that will basically rule who they are and what they do for the rest of their lives. What we teach them now, expose them to now, act as examples to them now, all influence the future people they will become. They are like little sponges, we hear, absorbing everything you give them now, only to develop to well-rounded, multi-talented, Ivy-league educated, healthy individual later.
If you do your job right.
It’s a lot of pressure. I worry because I haven’t done, well anything, really to cultivate their minds. No art lessons, a measly craft here and there, no music from this tone-deaf mama. Am I squandering their youth? Not giving them enough? Will they never reach their full potential because of me?
And then I stop. And realize–they are kids.
They aren’t asking me for bigger and better stuff, for lessons and classes. It’s my job to provide them with the best childhood I can, right? And when I think back on my childhood, the memories that have made it with me, the ones that shaped and molded who I am–what is it I remember?
Dance parties in the living room.
Ice cream trips in the late summer evenings with my dad.
Climbing trees with my brother.
Hours spent making forts in our room.
Cooking elaborate meals on my hand-me-down kitchen set.
Holding my brand-new baby sister.
The excitement of the first glimpse of our tree on Christmas morning.
Pools and wild raspberries and naps in front of the fan in the summer.
My nose always stuck in a book.
There are no lessons or classes or big, fancy toys.
There is laughter and play and imagination and family.
Those are the things that make up my memories.
Those are the things that will matter.
And those are the things that we can provide for our children. No matter what.