Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Letter of Thanks from a Zen Cowgirl to her Parents for NOT Buying a Horse

This is a letter of thanks to my parents for not buying me everything I thought I wanted (translation: a horse!) when I was younger. Now that may not sound like big news because every parent knows that they shouldn't buy their child everything he or she wants ... unless they want a very spoiled child.

The Child's Point of View
But what about from the child's point of view? It doesn't always make sense from a child's point of view why our parents won't buy us the very thing we most want. It seems unfair. It seemed unfair to me when I was growing up. It's not until now, when I'm in my 30s, that I realize what a favor my parents did for me by not buying me the thing I thought I most wanted as I was growing up: a horse.

I have been horse-mad since I was four years old, when my mom took me to my first riding lesson. Love at first sight. And of course I saw tons of other girls riding, too, many of them on their own horses. I soon began asking my parents for a horse of my own. I really hoped I would wake up on Christmas morning and find one in the driveway ... no dice and no horse.

But my parents did get me lots of lessons and lots of opportunities. They gave me the privilege of once-a-week lessons as well as often paying so I could rent a horse for an hour on the weekends. Later on they paid so I could lease a horse and really do some serious riding. I always thought that they were buying me riding lessons instead of buying me a horse. I didn't appreciate the difference at all. Little did I know that they were giving me so much more by not buying me a horse. Here's what they gave me by NOT buying me a horse:

1. A Desire to Learn "How To"
Because my parents didn't buy me the perfect horse right away, I rode lesson horses. Lesson horses, those poor, patient, and benighted animals, are often sour, tired, and kind of cranky. But since they represented my only chance to ride, I wanted, by golly, to make every ride count.

So I learned to make those poor tired lesson horses go, and I developed a deep thirst for learning how to work with lots of different horses. If my parents had bought me "the perfect horse" I would never have appreciated it. I would have just assumed that riding was easy and probably gotten bored with it. Instead I now have a great desire to "crack the code" on how best to ride every horse ... as well as how to solve life problems.

2. A Work Ethic
Even though my parents never bought me a horse outright, they gave me lots of opportunities to increase my riding time through bartering and work (in addition to giving me lessons outright). I remember my mom agreeing to trade dishwashing services for riding lessons (and overlooking many a still-greasy pot!).

I have to say that there was probably no greater motivating force in my childhood than a riding lesson, so by trading work for lessons they taught me how to have a work ethic, even though it didn't feel too much like work. They also loaned me the money when I wanted to buy my first horse (that's me and Marcus in that pic up there) and gave me extremely generous payment terms of $100 a month!

3. The Ability to Think It Through
Every time I asked my parents if I could have a horse, they would ask me lots of questions I couldn't answer. They wanted to know how much a horse cost, how I would know whether a horse was good, how to keep a horse in good health, how to find the right horse, how much it costs to keep the horse per month, and so on.

As a youngster I couldn't answer those questions at all, but I did find out. Later on, when I knew the answers to those questions, my parents taught me the budgeting and analysis skills necessary to buy and keep my own horse, without getting into financial trouble. Since my first horse I've had over a dozen and always known exactly how to plan for their care. The same applies to everything else I've ever wanted in my life as well. If my parents had just bought me the perfect horse, who knows? I might have ended up on skid row!

So Thank You ...
Although I probably pouted when I was a kid instead of saying "Thank you!" for not buying me a horse all those years, looking back now I realize what a huge favor my parents did me. Yes, I was green with envy back then watching those girls on $50,000 horses kick my behind in the show ring but now I can kick almost anyone's behind in a show ring on a $125 horse.

Mummy and Bubby (that's Mom and Dad in Chinese-English), you gave me that. You gave me the desire to learn, the confidence to know I can do anything I want in life, and the skills to take me to any goal. I didn't tell you "Thank you" back then, so I'm telling you now. I'm no longer that young girl but I'll always be your child and I so appreciate everything that you've done for me. Looking back this is just one of the ways you both allowed and guided me to be the happy person I am today. There are too ways many to write them all here.

Postscript ...
If you are a kid and you're reading this, I hope that you have the same opportunity I have had to really grow into knowing what I really want. I hope somewhere along the road your parents don't give you everything you want right away. I hope they hold something back, make you work a little, make you see what you're made of. It will be a priceless gift beyond any money or thing they could give you. And I hope you see and appreciate that gift somewhere along the way and say "thank you" to your parents, too.

Thank you and love,