Thursday, January 7, 2010

Is the Answer to Life Learning to Jump?

Raising kids can be a lot like gentling horses in that sometimes you get to road-blocks and don't know why. In my last post I referred to life being "hard"--I was referring to parenting. As our kids grow up, our relationships with them change--and that's difficult for me. So, how do you transition from parent to---well, whatever it is you are when your kids are adults? It's more than a friend, but what is it?

A lot of my New Year's resolutions this year revolve around my kids because, for the first time, I see the window of opportunity closing. When they get to be full-fledged, independent adults, will they want to be around me? Will they live close? Will they like me?

I've been a mom for twenty years now, so my instincts are fully kicked in for protecting my kids--but they're getting to the point where they can protect themselves--they're not quite there--but close.

I'm a hoverer--my Living Room window overlooks the pasture where my horses spend their day, my dogs are always at my feet, my cats are locked into their heated house every night before dark--I'm the one who wouldn't release Beautiful into the pasture with the others for a year!

A horse friend wrote to me once that I need to "take the jump". I never really knew exactly what she was referring to, but I think that's what Andrea's doing right now with her new job training horses.

I've been taking mini-jumps--both literally and figuratively. I've started jumping teeny jumps with Cowboy as I work on seat and form, and I've started up piano again, which is sort of a jump.

But it seems like life is pushing me to bigger and bigger jumps--letting go of old roles, finding new meaning, overcoming fears.

My riding friend loved to jump. She'd jump anything and everything--logs, creeks, cracks, burms, you name it. I'd always have my horse walk over them or around them. If he did jump, despite my asking him not to, I didn't like it. She'd go back and forth over things, once was never enough.

Though I'm only working on small jumps, I'm starting to understand her. It's a great feeling to land one, even over six inches. Your horse still has to put the power behind it, and you still have to sit right and keep looking forward, put your hands on their mane and let them go, and they get really excited afterward--it kind of wakes them up. that the same instruction for parenting? Point them in the right direction, grab mane, sit right, and let them go? Maybe I'm onto something with this whole jumping thing--maybe it's the answer to LIFE!

What do you think? Any jumping stories out there? Advice on parenting soon-to-be adults? I'll take all I can get!!


  1. My husband, daughters and I are very close-knit. The girls even chose to stay home for college and commute, not at all interested in dorm life. It's hard to say what the secret is. Our home is definitely a haven, very peaceful and comforting. We do have several shared passions that we really, really enjoy together. I think that's part of what's important for each family member, to be your self, to "own" your life choices with no apology. A certain respect comes between us with that. Oh, what a process Linda! We could probably go on and on on this topic, and have lots of great dialogue doing so. If I were on the west coast, it would warrant a trip to Chaps!

    And I love your idea of taking "jumps," and would def consider your piano playing one of them. They're exciting, challenging and so satisfying. It's got me to thinking that maybe I need a few writing jumps this year, and will def work on that one. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Joanne--I can tell you and your girls are close. Shared passions, your home being a haven--that probably is the key. This year, for us, there was a lot of traveling, and I wonder if that was hard for the kids. I think it was.

    I owe my kids a lot--they've ALWAYS been there for me. They were the easiest kids to raise. I think I'm going to just have to let this horse go and trust that I've lined it up well and I'm sitting right!!

    I'm excited to see how your writing will jump! My piano teacher always says, count, count, count some more, keep counting. My new motto is going to be, "Jump, jump, jump some more, keep jumping!"

  3. My kids aren't that old yet. So I don't speak from experience, but I've always thought that you have to give them the tools, the foundation, to make the decisions they're going to make. But at some point their decisions are their own, and there will be natural consequences. They will make mistakes (I know I have!) and at that point our jobs as parents is be there for them when they need us.

    So I guess I'm saying I agree - there's a point where you have to let them go, but make sure they know that you're always there. And don't let go too soon. I know you wouldn't. But it makes me sad to think of teenagers kicked out of the house when they're not even done with school yet because their parents are at the end of their rope. They may be infuriating and doing all the wrong things, but teenagers are fragile and they still need their parents, even when they think they don't.

    I like your idea of jumps. I think it's important to get out of our comfort zone sometimes and take (calculated) risks. It's a great way to quit stagnating and start growing. I've never been much of a risk taker. But it just feels like the time is right to start growing!

  4. Andrea--reading your comments made me think about horses again--like when some people hold the lead right at the halter and think they're going to yank them around when actually it gives the horse all the power--you have to give them enough lead to make their mistakes, but be there to show them the right way--not let go entirely of the rope! See--there's a horse analogy for all of life's little problems!! (I think I've been a mom who holds the lead too tight.)

    You are really taking a jump--I admire you! It kind of came out of no where--I didn't even know you were contemplating one, and then, Voila!, you went right out and got a job training horses!!

  5. Joanne--I forgot what you said about Chaps--if you were on the West Coast I'd treat you to a couple of lattes there and pick your brain! It might even be a three latte morning!

  6. I used to jump. Horse got as high as 3'3". I was bareback, and tied a yellow surveyor's tape between two trees out in the woods. Yes, I was crazy. I can barely make it over a ground pole today!

    Darling, you know, loves to jump as well. She's not as brave as I was then...but she's a whole lot braver than I am now!

  7. There is a great horse analogy for all of life. Like, do the groundwork and when you get to jumping (or any other specified discipline), it'll work out all right. I think that applies pretty well to teenagers, but I like your "grab mane" analogy too :)

  8. Linda, knowing you, I have no doubts that all will be well with your children. I like your analogy to the horses. It's so true! You do sometimes have to grab mane and let go. Kids do need to make some of their own decisions and make their own mistakes, and then suffer the consequences of those mistakes (although for us, it can sometimes be extremely painful) in order to grow.

    I could write a book on my parenting experiences, with five children ages 36, 31, 30, 23, and 16. It's an ongoing journey, and a very rich one at that. We all have our different styles -- I was very much the opposite of a "helicopter mom" (a hoverer). My oldest daughter was riding her pony down to the store in Norco, California to pick up a loaf of bread when she was 6 years old! This wasn't really by design on my part, it was just sometimes out of necessity and what I knew at the time. They are all uber-independent, but still emotionally close to me and to each other. They make my heart melt sometimes with what they do for each other. Well, then came Alexa, my mildly autistic daughter, the youngest, and I changed a little and became more of a hoverer.

    Each child is so unique. Some of mine inherited some traits that I would rather they had not -- but you learn that at some point just how much you can influence them, and how much is the way it is and is beyond your control. And to love them and be there for them no matter what. Some of them learn lessons easier than others, and it is painful to watch them keep falling into the same holes. But, even my most challenging children eventually have learned and have grown and changed for the better. They are the most wonderful, big-hearted, interesting people, despite some of their earlier choices and mistakes.

    My two daughters, ages 36 and 31, drove up from Portland for Bloomsday last spring. We all had a wonderful 4 days together. And the next Sunday, I believe, was Mother's Day, and I got the most beautiful bouquet of roses from them with a note that said, "Thanks for being the kind of mom who makes us both want to move back home." They could have saved their money on the flowers and just written the note, for Pete's sake. It made me cry and was the greatest gift ever..just a little expression of their appreciation.

    It's all good, Linda -- even the painful parts are good in the big picture. Life wouldn't be rich and we would never grow if we didn't have to dig our way out of a hole now and then.

    Laura (signing in anonymous because I forgot my google password!)

  9. Tracey--3'3"--That is HIGH!!

    I've seen Darling's videos and she has great form--she makes it look easy. You've taught your daughter to JUMP well!

  10. I am really glad I brought this up--I LOVE reading all of your comments!!! Yes, I'm a helicopter mom--I admit it!! What an appropriate term!!

    Youvegotmail--Doing the groundwork before they jump--perfect.

    Laura--You really could write a book on this--you have great insight. What a compliment--a "mom that makes us want to move home"--could they have said anything sweeter than that?

    BTW, "interesting, big-hearted people" are the BEST! If that's what making mistakes gets them, bring it on!

  11. Very much enjoyed your post - our two daughters are now 19 and 20, and are well on their way to independence. We try to be available to them, but to let them find their own way - we still worry and sometimes give too much advice, but we're close to both and are available to help as they need. But it's hard, I think, as a parent, to adjust to those changes - they barely remember when they were small and we still remember vividly when they were little. We are fortunate - both are really solid, good people - I don't really know how much credit we can take for that.

    As to "jumps" - I'm thinking about making some of my own - it's a work in process. Having the last child leave home is a big milestone.

    As to real jumping, I used to do lots of it and so did my daughters - when I was a teen, I jumped as high as 5 feet (once), and I competed in hunters for a number of years and was just getting ready to compete at 3'6" with my mare when we lost her in 2001. I don't jump any more - I had some issues with vertigo a couple of years ago and I'm still recovering from that, and both my mares are green at jumping - actually both have some issues with it due to prior bad training experiences - so I'm inclined to leave that out for now, particularly considering my age.

    Have been enjoying reading about your "jump" so far!

  12. Kate--it sounds like you're just a little past me in the process. It will be four years until my youngest is nineteen, and that will be a whole different situation, I'm sure.

    I'm curious about the JUMP you're contemplating. I'll wait to hear more.

    You have done some serious real jumping. I imagine, if you worked your way up to those higher ones, (higher than six inches, ha ha), it could be a real thrill. (Or just plain scary--not really sure which).

  13. There's a jumping story I want to recommend which was written by my best and favorite Creative Writing teacher--a fellow horsewoman and former riding partner--"A Measure of Grace", by Claire Davis.

    It's a memoir about her return to horses (and taking up jumping) at the age of 51. It's EXCELLENT!! If I'd thought of it earlier, I would have mentioned in the post--guess I'll have to save it for another one.

    You can find the story in the book, Kiss Tomorrow Hello: Notes from the Midlife Underground by Twenty-Five Women Over Forty.

    There are some really great essays in the whole book, but, of course, the one about jumping is my favorite.

    I'll have to look on Amazon and see if it's still for sale. It was put out a few years ago.

  14. Linda,

    I did find the book on Amazon and ordered it! It sounds like the perfect read for this 54-year-old grandma who just enrolled at Spokane Falls CC yesterday in the pre-nursing program (going for an RN degree!).

    Thanks for sharing!


  15. Laura--I had no idea you were even thinking of a jump like that!!!! I'm amazed. That's a big one--and you know I'll be cheering you on!!!

    I just went to Amazon, too, and I was surprised to see it still for sale. I picked up a couple more copies for a give-away.

  16. I'm so not a helicopter mom. Out of necessity my kids had to learn to be independent at a very young age. I just pray that I've given them the tools to make the right choices as an adult and the strength to weather their mistakes, 'cause they've got to make them.

    As for literal jumping, it makes me nervous. I would never do it on purpose and I think hunter/jumpers are insane. I love to watch them, but a log is about all I care to jump and that's only if my mare gets over it before I have a chance to think twice about it.

  17. Gun Diva--My helicopter is quickly getting shot out of the air. LOL. Hovering doesn't really help anyway.

    I'm with you on jumping over logs--but a log can be pretty big--so can a stream--so I like to be prepared.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.