Normally I look at the time I spend at the barn as my downtime. You know, my happy place. The place where I relax and unwind after a long day at work. The place where I get to share my love of horses and riding with my children. Blissful perfection, yes?Pfffffffffffffffffttttttttttttttttt!
The night started out well. We got out of the house on-time. There was very little traffic, so we got to the barn fairly quickly (a minor miracle considering New Jersey traffic). Sophie rode Sugar, I rode James, and we both had good rides.
Then things started to unravel. Sophie finished first, and when I brought James in, Soph had put Sug back in her stall and was busy cleaning tack. As I walked over to Soph she got a weird look on her face and then immediately looked away from me.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Nothing,” was her reply. Oh-kaaaaaaay. My Mom-dar was pinging but I decided not to push the issue.
While I untacked James I looked over at Soph and said, “I’d like to get out of here early, so can you clean my tack?”
And there it was. The big eye-roll, the big drawn-out sigh, and then, “I knew you were going to ask me that. You always make us clean your tack. What-everrrrrrrr.“
3…2…1…BLASTOFF!!!!! My vision went red, my blood pressure spiked, steam came out of my ears, and I’m pretty sure my head exploded.
Yes, I could have chosen to let this slide, shrugged it off, or simply reiterated my request. That would have been the mature thing to do. (Just for the record, I do plenty of tack cleaning. My own, and the kids.’)
I did not go the mature route. I proceeded, in clipped tones, to remind Sophie of how many times I’d cleaned her tack, rolled her wraps, picked up her horse’s stall, run back to the truck at horse shows to retrieve forgotten bows/garters/gloves, cleaned up the wash stall after she made a mess out of it, put away her grooming kit, wrapped her horse’s legs, tacked her horse up, and helped her groom. I ticked off each bullet point in rapid fire succession, my voice getting louder as I made each point. I even decided to list all the things I’d ever done for her, starting at conception, because yeah, I was on that kind of a roll.
Oh yeah, I was playing the guilt card. You bet I was. There was a point to be proved, dammit.
She stared at me, mouth open and eyes wide, as I delivered the coup de grace, “Now you can clean my tack AND pick out both horse’s stalls.”
We finished the barn chores in silence, which continued on the ride home. At one point I considered throwing out a conversational peace offering, then thought better of it. “Let her stew,” I thought. I had nothing to apologize for, and I can play the silence game as well as anybody. (Yep, that’s me, a model of maturity. NOT!)
Soph cracked first. She asked me how my ride was. “Fine.” A mile further down the road she asked if I was hungry. “Nope.” About 10 minutes later she caved and apologized, which I accepted gracefully, the model of parental grace and maturity. She then proceeded to go into a dissertation on her thoughts regarding the afterlife, major religious dogmas, and her hair (should she cut it, straighten it, get anti-frizz serum or a conditioning mask?) I just drove, trying desperately to keep up with the wildly vacillating topics of conversation.
At one point she looked at me out of the corner of her eye, smiled at me, and said, “I’m why you drink wine, aren’t I?”
“You’re a big part of the reason, sweetie,” I replied, shooting a quick smile back at her.
I believe honesty is important in child-rearing.