Handing Over the Reins

     Yesterday I was helping my daughter pack for overnight horse camp. Packing for an intensive horseback riding camp is very different from packing a kid for Jewish overnight camp. For my cowboy husband this was nothing new. He will take any chance he can get to scoop up all of our kids and take them to Farm & Fleet where the plethora of leather equestrian goodies are endless.  I sat with my daughter after this most recent shopping expedition and helped her pack the required SEI certified helmet, riding boots, proper triple cotton knee high riding socks and Outrider riding gloves. The goal of this week long camping experience is to send these campers home with the skills they need to independently tack (also called “tacking up”) and ride a horse with confidence, grace, responsibility as well as professional Western riding technique.

         Today our daughter will literally be handed the reins of a horse that will be her very large, gorgeous and furry buddy for the next 7 days. This got me thinking.

         My mind was brought back to early March 2002. I was passionately deep into a lesson on character development with a classroom of Sophomore high school students. When I say passionate and deep I am very well aware this enthusiasm was not shared by all 22 students. I know this because as I ran back and forth across the room flailing my arms in excitement about Atticus and Scout, begging for layers of analysis on “person vs. person” and “person vs. society,” I remember very clearly seeing glazed over eyeballs; potentially 44 eyeballs. As the sweat poured down my neck, the chalk dust went flying and visions of me becoming the next To Sir, with Love became a distant dream I was brought to my knees by the most powerful feeling of nausea I ever remembered feeling in my life! I quickly scanned over all the staring 44 eyeballs that I was in charge of for the next hour and said, “find a partner and discuss” and I ran to the bathroom.

     I use that memory as the symbolic moment when I first metaphorically handed over the reins to motherhood. Most things I tackled in my life up to that point I tackled with a ridiculous amount of energy and impulse; not always a great trait, though many times it resulted in following through with something I loved or wanted done. I can guarantee you that even if my students were bored they were intensely (passionately) bored, AND also knew I cared about them. Being interrupted while on the trajectory of completing a task was not something I was used to; until motherhood.

         I talk about this concept with new mothers all the time. The postpartum period, though it is layered with beautiful mystique and miracles beyond our wildest dreams, also encumbers us with the unknown, fear and sometimes insecurity and confusion. So much of what we learn and do as new parents is completely out of our control.  As mothers our bodies change and do weird drippy and sometimes painful things. Our babies sleep and then they do not want to sleep; they eat and then decide they do not want to eat; they cry FOREVER and then decide when to stop.

     Borrowing from the Yiddush proverb, “Mothers plan, and motherhood laughs.”

It’s okay. I promise. Hand over the reins to motherhood. She can be fickle at times, but she also gives the very best gifts you will ever possibly receive in your life.


One thought on “Handing Over the Reins

  1. Ooh, Jessie, you really hit the nail on the head with this one. The first time I vomited from morning sickness (while standing in line to get into a restaurant), I had a full on panic attack. I felt like my body and everything in my life was no longer under my control. At the time, that felt scary and more than a little bad. Now I know to welcome the unknown. Panic generally doesn’t help in situations involving babies, kids or vomiting.


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