As much as it pains me to quote Hilary Clinton, she coined the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child,” and last week, I saw proof of that when people from my community showed up to Grand River Raceway to cheer my daughter on.
I had registered my child in the Ontario harness horse racing youth camp, hosted by the raceway. It was a bit of a gamble. My daughter does not enjoy camp situations, especially when she has no friends going along. Committing to a week of making new friends in a new environment, competing in a sport she had never actually seen in person, much less tried herself, was asking a lot of a twelve year-old girl.
This is where genetics are a blessing. She is her Grandpa Gary’s girl, and carries the Waterhouse gene of understanding the silent communication of intuition and body language that forges a deep connection between horse and rider when they respect one another.
The girl who refuses to clean her room actually takes pride in sweeping a stall or picking up horse poop. Go figure.
I don’t know who learned more in her week of harness racing camp, her or me. Day one, she found out that racehorses are heavy, particularly when they stand on your feet. Coupled with the fact that she was one of the only kids not raised on a farm, she learned that hard work lasts all day. Socially, she understood that when you have a horse to focus on, you always have a friend. She said smart things to me like, “I’m okay to eat lunch alone. I like me.” Wise girl. Believing in your self makes all dreams possible.
As for me, I learned to let her go and find her place in the herd. I watched her muster up courage every morning when I dropped her off and saw the glow of her independent spirit every night when I picked her up. She was learning to stand on her own in a way I had never seen before, learning more about life than just horses; big stuff, the kind of things that shape who we become. The things you can’t teach your kids because they have to experience it on their own. Namely, fear is not an excuse not to try.
The reward of the camp was a night of live harness racing before the crowd at the raceway, where the children drove the cart alongside a professional driver. This was as real as it gets. It seems my daughter also inherited Grandpa Gary’s love of horseracing. From the speed of the horse to the adventure of the ride, she was living for this moment. Crazy fun.
This is where the village comes in. Friends, neighbours, hockey moms, preschool parents, even Grandpa’s friends showed up to cheer alongside the Carpenter and I. These are folks who remember the little girl with glasses that cried every morning when I left her at school, then followed me to my car with a tissue. They have seen this child blossom and they were there to watch her shine. Even more people cheered her on via FaceBook and emails. It was overwhelming.
That is what community is all about. It takes programs like this to push kids to expand their goals. It takes a village to give a child a foundation to grow on and the support to cheer them on. This is a great place to start.