Winning the Blue Ribbon
by Amy Baggett
Five days of horse-back riding, learning to tack a horse, crafts and outdoor games should have been the day camp of my 8-year-old’s dreams. But after the first day of 100-degree heat, my daughter begged me not to go back. I knew it was going to be a long week.
At Friday’s end-of-camp show, the campers nudged their sturdy horses through a path of orange cones as a crowd of parents and younger siblings sweated under the cloudless Texas sky. Though I could have crawled with two kids on my back more quickly than my daughter moved astride her horse, I was proud of her. She had conquered her fear of horses. She had stuck with it all week. She never had to go back again.
When the camp counselor awarded my daughter — “Miss please don’t make me go back there” — the blue ribbon, my jaw almost dropped into a steaming pile of manure. The counselor said my daughter never complained. She helped the other kids with their blankets and saddles without being asked. She won the blue ribbon for sportsmanship, not horsemanship.
The contrast between the two reminded me that I started out as a mother who defined success in measurable terms. For example, success was making my 4-year-old exit a fast food play area. Success was coaxing my toddler into a nap or coming home from the grocery store with all the items on my list. I didn’t realize during those years that the real victories would come without measurable results. The days my children threw a fit or I forgot the bread, the days we were all 20 minutes late were also the days that I learned not to scream back, to use tortillas for sandwiches and to give myself grace when I run behind.
As a child must take his or her time to develop, so too we as mothers must take our time to bridge the gap from inexperience to confidence. Confidence in parenting comes not from achieving measurable success, but from persevering with love and courage despite the results. We make this journey when we do what my daughter did at horse camp: be a good sport and enjoy the ride.
That’s worth a blue ribbon.
Amy Baggett is a speaker and the author who lives in the Dallas area with her husband and two daughters.