When our first born son Luis was eight, my husband’s employer, the owner of the ranch where he works, encouraged us to teach him how to ride a horse, saying he was about Luis’ age when he started riding alone and exploring the property on horseback. He must have recalled how exciting it was for a young boy to ride into the wide open spaces and feel the wind on his face and wanted Luis to build similar memories.
Luis used to enjoy riding when he was little, but with his father, Anthony, holding the reins. Today, he is 11 years old and he prefers riding the bicycle.
His little brother Jun Edward, however, turned out to be more outdoorsy. He’s only 6 but he talks like a grown up and feels like a grown up. He throws tantrums like a drunken adult when people treat him like a baby and don’t understand what he’s trying to say.
Anyways, so last weekend, he said he wanted to go horseback riding but didn’t want to share the saddle with me anymore – he wanted to have his own horse. I was like, OMG! All my of my babies are growing up fast! I was both excited and scared at the same time. There was the fear of losing them to the world, which for now remains to be such a remote possibility; the fear that he might fall, which is more proximate, and there is the indescribable excitement of an adventurous mother who is about to see her little boy ride a horse alone for the first time.
As his horse was being saddled, I offered to give him a few lessons with the reins first and he can go ride around the farm house; we will go out next weekend as soon as he’s learned to hold the reins. With his arms crossed in front of his chest, he shook his head from side to side and gave me that pout that told me upfront he didn’t want any lessons from me – like he never did from his taekwondo instructor or his swimming coach. The boy wants to learn things on his own.
This attitude of his has sort of bothered Anthony and I lately, but when I take a look at how he learned to ride a bicycle or assembled toy robots without learning how to read the manual, I’m reminded how he actually needed very little help from us adults. When there is something he is very interested in doing, he prefers to learn how to do it on his own.
With that, Anthony and I agreed to let him ride the friendliest horse in the ranch, with me on another horse behind him. You will never know how much I beamed with pride as we slowly rode away from the ranch house. Anthony took photos of us leaving but he didn’t come with us and as the house got smaller and smaller behind us, I thought about how much he was going to miss – our tiny six-year-old boy, refusing to ride behind his mama, looking very small but proudly holding the reins on top of a big black horse.
We took a long, slow ride across the pineapple field and as we approached the stream that cut through the woods, I regretted not having brought my camera. There was my little baby, about to cross the water and ride into the woods on his horse for the first time and I didn’t have a camera to capture the moment with. To my surprise, Anthony was just right behind us holding his camera phone. He and Luis rode their bikes and followed us.
Jun Edward and I took the route through the woods and out into the grazing grounds while Anthony and Luis took the main road across the pineapple fields. We met each other near the corral where Anthony took more pictures of us but most importantly, he went to see that our brave boy was alright. He was more than alright. You’ll never see any signs of fear in him. Joy, pride, excitement and pure childhood innocence were all you can see on his boyish little face.
A lot of times he tried to make his horse go faster, but there is something about the old black horse that seemed to recognize what was on his back or who was holding the reins. Never did he go any faster than his young rider can manage and that made him so much more endearing to us.
Before Jun Edward was born and Luis still a very small boy, Anthony and I used to spend most of our spare time with friends but life has a peculiar way of bringing us back on track and that’s when we realized how important spending time with our family is.
Today, we deliberately choose to spend our leisure time with each other and the kids. We were taught to keep a balance between family life and work life, but I say you can never achieve that kind of balance. Do well at work but do better at home. Parenting is such a sacred duty and there is no other job in the world more fulfilling than raising another person.
When we returned to the house and Jun Edward came down from his steed, I whispered a prayer of gratitude to God for making me these boys’ mama.