Thursday, October 9, 2008

In the interest of fairness~

So, after working hours on my photo wall the other day; agonizing over which of the perfectly imperfect snapshots of the previous 25 years of life I wanted to use, darling Nikki comes home and says "I love the wall, but there aren't many photos of me, are there?"

"What?" I say and immediately put aside the crochet project I'm currently working on and rush to the wall to point out that there are an equal number of photos of Nikki, Dallas and Hunter.....only to find that.....there aren't! How did that happen?

Remember I wrote about David and I being imperfect parents of imperfect children in my last post? Well, this is just a sample of what I was speaking to (or of). No matter how hard we try to be perfectly fair to our children as we raise them, imperfect fairness is as close as anyone can get.

I remember as a child (middle, of course) sometimes having that feeling of "that's not fair!" as my parents tried to raise three of us at one time. Take the animals for example....when we lived in Ohio, Kevin had a horse named Timmy and Kirk had a lamb named Baaa (yes, he named his lamb Baaa). What did I have? Well, I didn't have an animal to call my very own (unless you count my poodle Niege, but we're talking farmyard pets here...). To be fair, I rode Timmy and got to love on Baaa but neither of those were mine.

Fast forward, Kevin has grown up, joined the Air Force and married and now there are me, Kirk and our tiny newest addition to the family, Amy and we're living in Florida. And Kirk has a horse called Pollock (he tried and tried to change the horse's name to Blaze, but the new name never did stick). I walked around feeling sorry for myself because both the boys got horses when they asked for them so what about ME? I still didn't have a farm animal of my very own.

I must have said something to my parents, or perhaps that parenting intuition kicked in, or maybe it was pure coincidence, but suddenly there was a horse there for me! A horse of my very own....finally. Yet, I still found a way to feel that it wasn't quite fair. Why? Because my horse couldn't be ridden for 6 months......

There was a pasture with several horses grazing near our home; all of the horses but one were in grand shape. This other one was skinny, sway backed and lethargic and obviously being neglected. Eventually, we learned that that poor horse was a boarder whose owners had stopped sending money for his keep. And so, the horse wasn't being fed.

Dad contacted the owner of that pasture and told the man he would give him $50.00 for the horse and all tack that belonged to him or report him as an abuser. Suddenly, I had a who needed six months of TLC before he could be ridden. Despite being thrilled to finally have my very own horse, I still felt that it wasn't quite fair after all, the boys had had healthy, undamaged, able to be ridden horses purchased for them upon request....and I got one who might not even survive.

For six months, Kirk and I nursed Jimbo back to health. We brushed him and fed him and walked him on lead to build back up his strength. I did the majority of the care since I needed to build back up Jimbo's love and trust of humans after his betrayal by them and because he was mine. And gradually, Jimbo and I bonded......until eventually, he could be ridden again.

Jimbo became a best friend to me. He never really liked anyone but Kirk and me to ride him, bucking off some and kicking out at others as they attempted to mount him or taking the bit in his mouth and running out of control when someone else did mange to saddle and mount him....but he never behaved that way with Kirk and me....! I felt a secret pride about that, I'll admit to it now....this horse was mine in a way that no other horse would ever be. However, his unconditional love given in return for my tender care was best expressed on one of my saddest days growing up...the day Niege passed away.

I was a week or so from graduating high school and I was devastated. Niege had been mine since I was 8 years old....we'd left her behind for the year we lived in England but she had come back to us within days of our arriving back stateside. Her passing was the end of my childhood, the start of my adult life .......

I walked out to the pasture and sat on a tree stump. Soon, Jimbo came over to me for some attention just as he always did, but I just couldn't give him any at that moment. He stood for a moment or two, blowing and snorting to make sure I knew he was there, and then, that gentle, formerly abused horse placed his head over my shoulder, resting his neck there. I don't know how long we sat that way, my horse and me, but it was long enough for me to get it together, say goodbye to my poodle and childhood and begin to look forward again to graduation and college....and the next chapter of my life.

Imperfect parenting had given me the perfect gift for what at that point in my life, was the saddest day of my life.

Back to Nikki and the present.....yesterday, she and I went through photos to find a couple more of the interest of fairness....and as we did, I thought back to all the times I'd felt I was being "fair" to my children and how many times I knew I'd fallen short, and I wondered how many stories, like mine about Jimbo, my children could tell....

I can only hope that when they do tell their own stories....they'll be able to see those moments of perfection in the middle of imperfect parenting.....just as I now can.

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