Sunday, February 7, 2010

Project Geronimo

Lily attends enrichment class at school. It is a time during the day when the kids that score the highest on their state tests get together and "think outside the box". They had the same sort of thing when I was growing up, not that I ever was in it, but it existed and was called the "gifted" class. Calling the class "enrichment" is a safer name for the social structure that is found in elementary school today and doesn't alienate you from the rest of your friends who are not so gifted.

I have heard that when your baby is born it is born with 1/5 of your brain, in Lily's case she has about half of mine. She's super smart and I'd like to think that she's in the enrichment class because of that half of my brain that she took while in the womb. I'm sure this is not true at all but it makes me feel better having a reason for not being able to retain any useful information anymore.

Part of her enrichment class this year involves doing an independent project on something that is of interest to her. Lily decided to do her project on a horse named Geronimo that lives at the barn where she takes riding lessons. Great. Fun. Something she loves to do. The ideas for the project are hers, mostly, just minor Mother coaching from me. One of the things she needs to do is spend time at the barn doing and seeing all of the things required to take care of this horse. Arrangements were made for her to go to the barn this past Saturday morning to help out and start pulling this project together. She could not wait. She picked her outfit out the night before, jodhpurs, over-sized sweatshirt, riding boots. All the key components that help her to look the part of a rider and woke up excited and ready to go.

It was cold Saturday morning. Really, really cold. When we got there she learned her assignment was going to be changing out the water buckets in the horse stalls. I thought it was the right thing for her to do, starting at the bottom, learning about the fundamental things a horse needs like food and water. Perfect place to start, right? Except that the water buckets were heavy and Lily so far has been exempt from performing any physical labor in her life. She managed OK with the first two, I tried not to hover but could see her struggle with the fuller ones so I helped her carry them out and dump them. Once they were emptied, of course, they had to be filled back up. One would think that task would be a no brainer but not for the child who has never done anything with a hose except run under it with her friends to keep cool in the summer.

It was painful to watch her struggle awkwardly with the on and off valve. I tried to coach her into a more comfortable position to work the hose but she gave me that all too familiar "you don't know anything, Mom" look so I walked with her and didn't say a word as she got her hands soaking wet and looked near tears as she lost the feeling in her finger tips during the last two stalls.

All the while I could not help but think about this documentary I had watched last weekend about these children growing up in the Himalayas. They were as young as Lily and had to work all day in the the fields gathering this grassy hay mixture for their animals for the winter. They made these huge bundles of grass that they strapped onto their back and walked back to their house, climbed up this rickety ladder onto the roof and spread it out only to turn around and go back for more. I laughed at the thought of Lily doing that. She's tells me almost every day that she is so tired after school she can't carry her backpack from the car to the house and has to lay on the couch and watch a show for half an hour to relax.

There was no option not to help my Mother in the evening when I was little. There was no laying on the couch watching cartoons. Not that there were even cartoons on during the week and when we could watch tv I actually had to perform the act of movement to change the channel. That is an unimaginable task for Lily to comprehend. One day last week Lily called me in from making dinner and asked me if I knew where the remote was. She didn't even get up to look for it but called for me to do it. Now, i'm a sucker, but not a total idiot and after a minor freakout on my part she realized that not only was I not going to find the remote for her but my very real threat to disconnect cable and donate that money to the unfortunate people of Haiti struck a wave of fear that made her jump up, turn off the tv and play with the hampster that she desperately wanted and now runs on a wheel to no where waiting for someone to show it the love a caged animal deserves. Good save Lily. We still have cable.

The time at the barn ended well with Lily thrilled to watch her instructor ride a thoroughbred from the comforts of a heated tack room. She was happy again once she started to regain the feeling in her fingers and toes. For the record, I told her to dress warmer but her overwhelming desire to look like one of the girls from the Saddle Club show held strong and she looked super cool but froze her ass off. I'm hoping that she remembers that the next time she goes to the barn.

When we got home that kid was tired! And I was pretty convinced that I was failing at raising a child who will someday be able to take care of herself. I think I have instilled some good values in her. She is kind and honest and a hard working student but how could a 9 year old not know how to work a hose?

I covered her up with a blanket. I should have let her get the blanket herself but there are some things that seem Motherly that bring me joy. A few minutes later when she held her blue plastic cup up and asked me to pour her some water I said "No. The fridge is 20 feet away. Get up and pour yourself a cup of water " she could not believe it. Nor would she get up and get the water. She continued to hold the cup up and beg pllllllllease just get me some water. Simple "no" was my answer that time and the 25 more times that she asked me as she eventually wiggled her pained body onto the floor and fell asleep with her head down and the blue cup tipped over by her side.

I watched her take the first nap that she has taken since she was a toddler and have decided that I need to stop doing so much for her. Not only am I moving on to a new life for myself but now I'm taking Lily with me. I can't wait to see the look on her face when I ask her to help me carry wood in after dinner for the fire tonight.

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