He’s brushing slowly, his hand twirling in circles on the horses back. Really, he’s just been doing one spot for the last five minutes. There’s still dirt and hay clung tight to the horse’s magnificent body. We have the opportunity to come to Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch once a month to ride the horses for free and for my kids to spend time with godly mentors who volunteer there.
I am sitting on a bench in the sunshine and his horseback riding lesson has been going on for about a half hour. So far, he’s selected his horse and has methodically brushed one spot. And it’s not because he’s a careful, diligent, intentional sort of child. No, it’s because he tends towards distraction and forgetfulness and at the moment his mentor is asking him what he likes to do. He pauses, brush in midair. I can’t hear what he mumbles but he lets out a chuckle. He goes back to the one spot. I have the urge to remind him that there’s a whole horse left to do and he’s not going to have much time to ride if he doesn’t focus.
This is something we are always working on. Focus, Judah! Pay attention. His mind wanders on invisible trails that only he can see. School can take hours of constant redirection and frustration. He is not lacking in ability or aptitude but concentration. He twirls his pencil, he stares out the window, he goes to find the notebook I told him to put away in the school cabinet but didn’t because he was distracted then and forgot. And so it is in these areas that the ticking clock has produced a pressure cooker where my frustration boils, violently rattling out orders and commands: hurry up, why did you do it that way, do this, don’t forget, not that way… PAY ATTENTION, JUDAH! Focus.
After all, doesn’t he need to learn to do these things? How will he learn responsibility if he can’t follow simple directions without getting sidetracked? Isn’t it my job as a mother to make sure he gets his math done, his chores finished, his things put away? And so I am relentless in my correction. We end up at this impasse more often than I wish to admit. Each of us polarized, nothing actually getting accomplished.
I am slowing rising, about to point out that he should probably move on down the horse, be more attentive, finish the job and get to it, when I see the volunteer bend down and pick up another brush from the bucket. Still in conversation, he begins to groom alongside Judah, moving steadily. And I see Judah’s hand begin to progress also, past the five-minute spot and up the horse’s neck. I hear the volunteer say, “I really like how you took your time and made sure you got all the dirt off.”
Judah’s smile cracks wide, a sight I’ve rarely seen recently with all the tension in the house. And his pace picks up as he turns his eyes towards his task. He is working diligently, the praise bolstering his little heart. After all, I know how men need respect. How they were created to thrive on the respect of the women in their lives. I do this for my husband, but what about my son?
I am splayed open. Right there in the woodchips and sawdust, and glorious sunshine. I am struck to my core. My son needs encouragement and respect. He needs me to pick up my brush and come alongside him. He needs me to set the pace by example. He needs me to speak words of life, not rushed, impatient, snarky comments on why he needs to change. He needs to know that first I am in this with him, walking this life of mothering a boy in tandem with that very boy’s heart.
I sit back down. Close my eyes and relax into the chair and allow the sunshine to wash over me.
Alia Joy is the creator, editor, and writer of the blog Narrow Paths to Higher Places where she hopes to encourage and connect with other women and inspire authentic love for God. Cynical idealist, homeschool momma to 2 amazing boys, Judah and Nehemiah and one precious little girl, Kaia. Wife to Josh, book wormy, coffee dependent, grace saved, writer of random musings, attempter of all things crafty, lover of mustard yellow, turquoise, Africa, and missions. Maker-upper of words. Disliker of awkward introduction and writing in the third person.
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