Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sheep versus Brumby

Although New Zealand is the country most renowned for its sheep in this region - 25 years ago the ratio of sheep to people there was 20:1, a number declining rapidly as sheep numbers drop - Australia actually has 100 million sheep to rival New Zealand's current 35 million.

In comparison, the USA has 5 million sheep, comprising a mere 1% of our livestock.  (We prefer beef - and have the useable acreage to support them.  Nothing like genetically modified, hormonally enhanced American beef.  Sadly, I jest not.  YUM!)

July 2011, Brisbane

But you've got to know me well enough by now to know that I am not talking about those sheep.

I'm talking about me.  (What do you MEAN, it's not about ME?!)  And I'm talking about most of us. 

C'mon.  You know it's true.  For the vast majority of us, life is way more comfortable in the herd, in a familiar field, surrounded by the picket fence we know than alone in the bush without any boundaries.  Bah!

I'm the worst kind of sheep, as it turns out.  I'm a sheep who wants to run around and do her own thing on occasion and then wants the herd to accept her back and love her anyway.  After she's pushed the boundaries and jumped the fences.  Love me.  Love me.  Accept me.  Bah!

So that I actually understand the girls in Ryan's class who are currently having difficulty understanding why she is insisting on doing her own thing.  What do you mean you aren't going to do the same thing as the rest of us?  How can you NOT want to join us on the playground?  You're in our group - if you do what we say.  You're ALLOWED to be with US - if you follow our rules.  How can you be comfortable enough in your own skin to rather sit and sketch horses?  ALONE?! 

Bah!  Bah!  Join the herd.  How can we be comfortable with ourselves if everyone else isn't validating us by doing the exact same thing that we are?

I am not mocking these girls.  I was these girls.

April 2007, Stylin' at Lake Garda, Italy

Ryan tells me the girls are 'the bad girls' and that she doesn't like doing what they do.  She doesn't want to get in trouble.  And, apparently unlike her former best friend, she is not interested in trying to impress these girls by joining them.  Even if they are encouraging her to.

You have to feel sorry for her friend who just doesn't seem to understand how Ryan can NOT want to join up.

I don't get it either.  How did a people-pleaser and joiner like me - BAH, BAH, - raise children who are confident enough to do what THEY want and not what OTHERS want them to do?!

How did a sheep end up raising a Brumby?!  (Wild, Australian ponies, the counterpart to the American mustangs.)

And - as it turns out this week - it's not just Ryan. 

Princess and Pirate, August 2007, Herrenberg

Andrew too, is resisting, not peer pressure, but pressure from figures of authority, figures he respects and has been taught to listen to - ie me and his teachers - and gone his own way.

I couldn't be prouder.  (Although I'm still looking backward at the broken fences and wondering if it wouldn't have been easier to stick with the herd this time.  Bah!  Bah!)

This week Andrew and Ryan both chose sports over an academic program.  (Let's put this in perspective.  Isn't it wonderful that they have too many fantastic after-school options to choose from?!)  Honestly, I'm not sure why the teachers - even the sports teacher - seemed so surprised.  I did all those competitions in school too - but mostly to get out of regular classroom time - and mostly because it was the highest level of achievement there was and I was expected to.  Bah! Thinking back, I don't know that I can say I ever really enjoyed it. 

I was under so much pressure in school - even though I always did well - that I recall the ride home after my last day of fifth grade, sitting in the back seat, up the hill past Nick Rosen's house on the right.  The weight of the world dropped off of my shoudlers at the thought of almost three months summer break.  Literally.  My shoulders must have physically come down at least a couple of centimetres.   Knots unraveled as the tension eased.

Mind you, I was in FIFTH grade.  And a straight A student.

I also hated group work.  Because most of the time noone else got much of anything done and I ended up doing it all myself.  I felt obligated to.  By highschool it was more than self-imposed pressure.  The teachers EXPECTED me to carry the group.  I remembered getting reprimanded by an English teacher in 12th grade because I hadn't given it my usual effort and the project hadn't been up to my usual standards.  (We - horrors of horrors - got a 'B'.)  I told her that I was sick of doing everyone else's work - that I had done my own.  And she said "yeah, and look at how well that turned out." 

I am not making these things up.

March, 2007

So that when the teacher in charge of an extracurricular academic competition that runs for the next six weeks asked Andrew to give up his Wednesday afternoon sports program to join the group, well honestly, who can blame him?

Soccer.  Extra schoolwork.  Soccer.  Extra schoolwork. 

Ryan just met a 14 year old girl who wants someone to ride her 16.2 H, 8 year old Thoroughbred mare with her in the afternoons.  I would have suggested half the days riding and half doing the academic program but when the teachers insisted it was all or nothing on afterschool time, well, again, this was a no brainer for Ryan.  Honestly, I'm not sure I find it healthy to want the kids to spend ALL of their afterschool time on this program anyway, even if it is for only six weeks.  And how am I supposed to just drop all of our other commitments at a moment's notice?

I guess I'm less of a sheep than I used to be too.  Although I do keep looking back at that fence.

In any case, I would have had the kids do the program.  I had it all scheduled out.  Since Andrew has soccer on Tuesdays and sports on Wednesdays then those would also be the days that Ryan could go riding.  That left Mondays and Thursdays for the academic competition.  Fridays were  up for grabs.

It would have been an exhausting, logistical nightmare for the next six weeks - but not something I was strong enough to say 'No' to.  How lucky for me that the teachers insisted on unlimited commitment of our time.  (Once again, WHO can do that?!  And HOW?  I would really LOVE to learn how anyone can be not busy enough to on the spur of the moment just devote six weeks of their time to ONE temporary project unconditionally.  Not anyone I know personally.  It boggles the mind.)
August 2007

I'm obviously still struggling with the decision. 


Who knew that such a little word would be so hard to say?

And so easy to say for my kids?

So that I'm left chasing after my two Brumbies, still uncomfortable with NOT conforming to the expectations of others, but so totally psyched that they are both confident enough in themselves to follow THEIR dreams and not mine, or anyone else's.

August 2007.  Definitely their own people!

It's a wild ride with these Brumbies.  But I am learning more from them than I ever did as a sheep.

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