Unexpected Lessons.


Last weekend, Eden entered his first official horse show.  He looked forward to it for months. Weeks prior to the big day, he spent every spare moment at the Ranch practicing and preparing Rev, his borrowed horse.  Eden loves it her like his own.

Every night, he walked through the door smelling like a barn, removed his dusty boots, and went upstairs to do homework.  Then he slept.  His days were long, but he didn't seem to mind.  He loves riding, and caring for horses.

A year ago, I wouldn't have believed that Eden could keep such a busy schedule with school, homework, and early morning bible study at 6:00 a.m.  I guess when you are doing something you love, you find the time and energy to fit it in, in spite of life's responsibilities.

Show day came, and at the crack of dawn, Eden made ready doning a white shirt, tie, black coat, and tall boots. He looked like a Ralph Lauren ad.  As he threw his gear in the car,  wasn't nervous at all, just excited, and hopeful; hopeful that he would win.

We drove to a ranch down the road from Green Acres, pulled into a dusty lot filled with horse trailers, and parked next to next an Easy-up.  Eden got out of the car and found his trainer while I visited with the Suttons, our next-door-neighbors who also love to ride.  Their daughter Makyla had entered the show too.

An hour later, the first event began as Eden, Makayla and 8 others rode their horses around an fenced arena performing the commands of a judge;

reverse walk

When it was over, the riders lined up in the center of the field to hear the results.  The first place winner was announced over the loud speaker and I saw a girl on a black horse smile.  She gave a nod to the judges and excited the ring.  Second place came next, and that went to Makayla, our neighbor. She's been waiting 4 years to claim a prize and today, it happened.  She rode off beaming with joy.

The announcer went on and on until all the prizes had been awarded, and the last man stood -- rather sat on a horse, alone in the center of the ring.

I wondered why they didn't announce in reverse --  giving the winner all the glory and attention there in the arena.  I found it awkward watching that line dwindle down to one last person, who knew he would be on display as the guy who finished last.   I sat there wincing as the line got smaller and smaller, while realizing there was a person for whom it was worse -- the guy who sat solo in the center of the ring, Eden.

One of the hardest jobs as a parent is watching your children go through painful experiences -- seeing their face when you know that they are hurting, or embarrassed, while onlookers watch. You ache for them more than you would if it were actually happening to you, which is how I felt watching Eden.  Even though he was smiling, I knew by the look on his face that all he wanted to do is get in the car and leave.

He had been so hopeful as he prepared that morning, and now instead of a dream come true, he was living his worst fear -- losing in front of a crowd.   There wasn't a prize, or hearty congratulations as he rode off the field,  just a few weak claps as people busied themselves for the next event.

When I found him, he was standing with his friends congratulating their success as they gave enrouragement in return:  Don't give up Eden, it's your first show, you're doing just great.    He nodded, and walked towards me; the bounce in his step, gone.  He asked if I would take him to get something to eat, so we got in the car, and took a lunch break.   As we drove to the local fast food joint, he broke down.   Mom,  all that work for nothing.   I feel so stupid . . . I have three more events, and just know I'm going to be standing there alone again . . . I am never going to be good at this . . .  I hate being last. 

I sat there listening, a little worried about what I could possibly say to make my son feel better.  Sometimes I lack the skills I need to help my children, and it's usually during moments such as this.   I've learned though, that the most powerful tool I have as a parent is heavenly help, that can be accessed any time that I ask.  So I said a little prayer in my head and in a matter of moments, the words came.

I can't remember all that I said, but it included: I am so proud of you for working so hard, and putting yourself out there . . . it doesn't matter that you win, what matters is that you love doing what you do . . . ride because it fills your soul with happiness, no one can take that way from you . . . there will come a day when you will remember this moment, and perhaps feel a little more compassion for another guy who finishes last --  that person may be your own child . . . by chance if you you do win a blue ribbon, receive it with grace . . . Sometimes things don't work out the way you had planned, but even when they don't,  get back on the horse {no pun intended.}

After a while Eden's spirits lifted.   He guzzled down a soda, and we went back to the ranch for the rest of the show.

Two hours later, we were back at the ring.  I was a nervous wreck.  I think Eden was too.   This time, there wasn't a line-up at the end, which was a big relief.  Rather,  the contestants had to go to the judges area to view the results, posted on a list.  I stayed behind and Eden walked over alone.  I watched in the distance as he moved his finger down a white paper to find his name.  Then I saw it:

pats on the back,
and a blue ribbon in his hand.

My eyes teared up.   I was so happy for him; that his dream came true, and he got to experience what it was like to succeed.

But, at the end of the day, I think the greater prize for both of us were the lessons learned from finishing last.




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