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On Mother's Day and the Kentucky Derby

One of the most vivid memories of my childhood is watching the Triple Crown races with my parents every year. My father, especially, loved the theater of horse racing, and these three races embraced the best of it. We made an afternoon of it. Special food. Special chairs around the big, bulky television set. My parents drank bourbon. My brother and I got root beer, which sort of looked like whiskey. We watched the pre-race color, almost as nervous as the horses for the parade to the gate. And when the bell rang and the announcer told us, “They’re off,” how we cheered for our favorites. I do not remember even one horse going down or being hauled off in an ambulance due to broken bones.


If you’ve ever heard me speak, you know I was adopted by an older couple. My dad was 72, and my mom 42, when they adopted me as a new baby. I was a wanted child, that is for sure. Growing up, I often felt a little overprotected. All the way into middle school, my mom insisted on accompanying my friends and me to events like movies (to be fair, she would sit in the back while we moved up front, pretending we didn’t know her). Looking back, I understand that she didn’t want evil to touch me, and it didn’t. But for all my parents’ protectiveness, they never pushed me to become something I didn’t want to be. They encouraged my dreams, not their own.


Today, I find it harder to watch horse racing. Yesterday’s Kentucky Derby almost drew me in, but for the last few years, too many colts have gone down to broken bones. They are bred ever finer. Ever faster. They are pushed ever harder. Ever younger. Those colts want to please. Want to run. Want to fulfill their destinies. But, given a little more time, a bit gentler training, they would be sounder.


Today, many parents push their children toward parental expectation. I have heard them talk about making sure their kids get into “the right preschool,” or the kindergarten that will assure the right path to Ivy League education. Other parents drop their kids into t-ball at three. Little League or Pop Warner at five. Their own lives take a backseat to creating the perfect little athlete. We are seeing the results of this more and more, as children start to drink or use or cut at ever younger ages. I see it. I hear about it. I talk to kids about it. Every single day.


Today we celebrate mothers, as well we should. They are the caretakers of the future, from the time their children are only embryos until those children go off on their own. I think today we should also celebrate children, and honor them by stepping back to look at their dreams versus our own. There is no such thing as perfect, in a parent or a child. Can we stop reaching for perfection long enough to let our children be kids? To let preschool be about playgrounds, and kindergarten about coloring and sports about being part of a team, rather than the star athlete? Can we stop pushing them ever younger and allow them to fulfill their destinies in their own time? Aren’t you tired of hearing about so many colts going down to broken bones?


Happy Mother’s Day to all you bearers of the future. Happy Sunday to the future.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jun. 5th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
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