I sucked it up. It was time to have The Talk with our son about the hitting the dirt. (See The Emergency Dismount: Part 1.)
As with every carefully crafted, well thought out, kid-considerate parental plan, it didn’t go well.
The idea was to ease into The Emergency Dismount by teaching Micah how to fall first: relax, tuck, roll, and get up instantly to avoid hooves. (See ESPN: bull riders can hit the dirt, break half their bones, and they are STILL up and moving instantly.)
“Mom. What’s up with all the mystery?” Micah says, flicking at his seat belt as we pull in to the barn. I open my mouth. Micah says “Don’t even. I KNOW something’s up.”
Why does he have to be so perceptive? Couldn’t he be oblivious some of the time? I try for an everything-is-completely-normal voice.
“Today” I say, “I’m going to teach you how to fall off your horse”.
“FALL OFF?” Micah is shocked. Years have been spent instilling one imperative fact in him: stay ON the horse. “Why?”
I take a deep breath. Here it comes. The Carefully Rehearsed Parental Speech. “Because at some point, every rider hits the dirt, no matter how good they are. So you may as well know how to fall so you don’t get hurt.” This turns into a quick prayer: please God, no hurt, not a scratch, ever.
“I don’t need to learn how to fall, because I’m never going to fall off a horse. I’m going to be a good rider…like you.” His arms cross his chest. “YOU never fell off a horse!”
This is where it all goes south.
I can’t help it. It’s too ridiculous a concept. The pressure bubbles up in me until I burst like a water balloon. Laughter explodes out. I’m actually snorting as if I got water up my nose. ME? Never fell off a horse?? Where on earth did he get THAT idea? I laugh so hard my ribs hurt. I’m wheezing, panting for breath. Tears stream down my cheeks. I’m doubled over.
“Micah…listen to me”, I try to stifle myself. I don’t want him to think I’m laughing at him. “I fell off my first horse EVERY SINGLE DAY for TWO YEARS. Every day. At least once a day, sometimes more. I didn’t have a saddle, and I didn’t have a teacher, so I fell off all the time. When I finally learned to stay on, she started throwing me, and I got thrown almost every day.” (She had a two year hiatus from bucking, because I thoughtfully did the unloading for her.)
“YOU DID NOT.” he doesn’t want to believe me. “You’re a good rider!
“I’m good enough for what I’m doing, but stuff happens. Horses can spook, or trip, or get scared and buck.” Or, I’m thinking to myself, they can hate your guts and spend all their free time thinking up devious new ways to unload you. “I wasn’t a good rider when I was twelve. I had to learn.”
It’s hard to take a sledgehammer to your own pedestal.
After a lot more stories that ring too true to be made up, Micah is grudgingly convinced that I have, indeed, hit the dirt. I don’t have him convinced he will (Thank God) but he agrees to at least listen to this falling thing.
Look…up in the sky…it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no…it’s Crazy Mom.
Micah thought I was nuts. Practice falling off the top fence rail? Do I KNOW how stupid that would look? Plus, how do you learn to fall? Doesn’t it just happen? Clearly this is a conversation that should have taken place when he was still young enough to think falling off a fence with his mom, on purpose, would leave us both in hysterics. What if one of the cute barn babes saw him? WITH HIS MOTHER?! Okay okay. I get the point. We compromised. He’d watch ME do it if we no one was around.
I should have practiced. I’m way too old for this. But. I climbed on the top fence rail, helmet securely strapped on, and imitated getting unloaded by throwing myself up and out in the air as high as I could. Once I was IN the air, I understood exactly why Micah thought this was stupid. BECAUSE IT WAS. Holy crap. Did I just throw myself off a fence on purpose? Whose idiotic idea was this?
Hallelujah, I manage a duck, tuck and roll…though the getting on my feet is a bit…sluggish. Ow ow ow ow OW. Has anyone else noticed there is a direct relationship between one’s age and the hardening of the footing? It increases exponentially: the older you are, the harder the ground becomes.
“See,” I manage. “It’s easy.” I stagger back to the fence where Micah is sitting. “Trick is to relax in the air. Doesn’t feel like the right thing to do – your instinct is to brace yourself.” I’m huffing and puffing. “But it saves you.” Oh sure. He saw. Old lady does a swan dive off the fence and tries to be nonchalant about it. No way is he going to fall for that, and thank GOD his friends aren’t here.
“I got it.” Micah says. Translation: forget about it. I am NOT going to do that on purpose.
“Uh…you gotta try it.” I put my hand on the small of my back in a futile attempt to restack my vertebra. “It has to get in your body memory…you won’t be able to think when it’s happening.”
Micah understands body memory and not being able to think when stuff is happening.
“Remember when Pumpkin raced off with you, and you did exactly the right thing, and were so surprised because you didn’t think about what to do, you just did it?”
“Okay. Okay.” He does a quick Chick Check. No girls. “I’ll do it.”
The day ended in one of those glorious moments that only happen when your kid is 13 but is also still every age he’s ever been. We tried to out fall each other off the fence, and ended up in the dirt laughing our heads off and making sand angels.
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