Monday, July 16, 2012

The Best Kind of Confident

I realize I'm her mother, and so it is my job to feel this way, but seriously - I love my kid. Sometimes her attitude and her personality just amaze me. Most days, I wish I could learn to be a little more like her. I'm pretty sure she teaches me more than I'll ever teach her, though she might not ever know it.

Watching her at the 4-H horse show and gymkhana this weekend, I was so thrilled with the way she took it all in, never gave in to pressure, was incredibly sportsmanlike, and just had an overall wonderful attitude.

I attribute her awesomeness, at least in part, to the fact that she's homeschooled.  She has no concept of competition. There is no need, in our home, to compete for first place. There has never been a need for her to consider what others might think of her, and so she has this confidence in herself that most kids never experience. My husband was homeschooled, and is exactly the same, and he totally gets her. Me, on the other hand... I find it all quite baffling. Endearing, to be sure, but utterly confusing. A life without comparing yourself to others? Without worrying about whether you're the best? I don't think I'd ever imagined such a thing until I started seeing the person she's turning out to be... and I love it.

My Oldest Girl, on her amazingly sweet and ever-so-patient old horse, had not the slightest chance of winning any events this weekend. But that didn't matter, she wasn't there to win. She was there just to do it, to get some experience and see what it was like and learn some things. When the other kids showed up dressed to the nines in rhinestone chaps, it never occurred to her that her attire was only average. When the other kids had fancy horses, it never crossed her mind that her 22 year old draft/pony cross wasn't up to par. When the other kids raced through the poles and barrels as fast as they could, she never felt like she had to do that. She happily walked her horse through each pattern, doing exactly what she felt comfortable doing. She might have been laughed at for being the slowest, or people might have felt sorry for her, but if they did, she never noticed.

When she was handed her first sixth place ribbon, she was tickled. She'd won something! In her mind, she walked away a winner. She was given a ribbon, and that meant she had been recognized for doing what she was doing. Blue or pink, it didn't matter. There were girls there crying, stomping, yelling at their parents, angry with their horses, because they hadn't gotten the first place ribbon. My kiddo couldn't understand that. She just patted Bandit's neck, told him he is the best horse in the whole world, and cheerfully tied that pink ribbon to her saddle.

The next day, she went on to win four fifth place ribbons, and even a fourth place ribbon. (This was because other girls were disqualified because their horses went too fast for the novice division.) By the end of the two days, she had a whole stack of ribbons. The color didn't matter. Now she has something to hang on her wall next to a picture of her and Bandit together, showing that they went out and did their best together - a cautious little girl and her ever-so-slow pony - working together, enjoying just being out around all those other people in that big arena.

She says next year she'd like to maybe try to win a third place ribbon. There it is again, that homeschool mentality. When you're schooled at home, and competition doesn't exist, the only person you have to compete with is yourself. Her goal for the next year is simply to improve her skills and do a little better next time. In her mind, that will mean she's won.

The highlight of the event came at the banquet, when it was announced that she had gotten first place in her division on the written horse test. A blue ribbon! She won a blue ribbon!  She studied hard for that test, but also spent a lot of time reading her horse books just because she found them so interesting. And she was rewarded for it with a beautiful blue ribbon. I think we were all a little shocked... little Chloe, coming in almost last in nearly every event, walking away with the best score on the test. I told her what she lacks in speed, she makes up for in knowledge.

But at the end of the day, it wasn't that blue ribbon that mattered. The whole stack of different colored ribbons was nice and she's mighty proud of them, but what she kept talking about was how she wanted to go ride some more and practice some of the things she'd learned while she was there. She's sure Bandit can do it, and she can too, with a little bit of practice.

I want that innocence. I want her attitude. I want her confidence. That little girl inspires me, I tell ya.

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