This morning the new calves were frolicking, bucking and kicking up their wobbly legs outside my window as the sun began to rise magenta pink on the cusp of the hill. The grass is neon green and I thought then that those colors of the morning sky and that green and the shine of the black on the backs of those calves were all my favorite colors.
This week Rosie, my youngest, graduates from preschool. They give her a little graduation cap and everything. She’ll wear her new dress and sing songs she’s been practicing for a month alongside her cousin. A few days ago my sister and I took our five-year-olds to kindergarten orientation. As the our daughters held hands and skipped around the school behind the teachers at the front of the line, brave and excited together, my sister, who is five years younger than me, whispered, “Did you ever think we would have kids going to school at the same time?”
“No,” I replied. “I guess this is how it was always supposed to be.”
This season change from white to brown to bright is following this little season change in my life. We will play through the summer and then both of my daughters will be in school—a kindergartener and a second grader. If my husband and I would have come into parenthood without ten years of heartbreak and loss, we would be long past this elementary school part, with a teenager practicing to take the drivers test. Our kids would be babysitting my little sister’s kids if we had control of the timing of any of it. If we wouldn’t have suffered loss after loss…
And you couldn’t have convinced me at the time that it would all work out the way it has. The heartbreak of infertility and miscarriage is a weight that sometimes pulls the heaviest when you’re trying your best to stay positive. There were years I gave up on the idea of parenthood entirely. There were years the pain made me avoid the subject.
Yesterday my sister, husband and I took all the girls (aged three, five, five and seven just so you can get the complete picture here) to practice riding horses and to get ready for their first little rodeo in town at the end of the week. The older girls were working on navigating their horses around the barrel pattern. With old horses fresh off of a lazy winter that know the grain bucket’s at the barn, it takes a bit of coaxing and skill to get them to take these little bodies on their backs seriously. It can be frustrating for a perfectionist like my seven-year-old and she wasn’t handling it well. And I haven’t read a parenting book that addresses the specific issue of teaching your kids to be calm and patient on the back of an old, stubborn horse, and so I wasn’t handling it well either.
An animal will test all the things that need testing in you, and so after we put horses away and loaded up to go home, I turned to my daughter and reminded her that she’s a cowgirl. And then out of my mouth came a list for her, a little guideline that I thought my rule-follower could appreciate:
A cowgirl is kind. A cowgirl encourages others. A cowgirl stays calm in tough situations. A cowgirl doesn’t give up. A cowgirl tries her best.
We both repeated it. And then so did Rosie.
And I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say here except I wanted to acknowledge that there are many ways a life can turn out, even if it isn’t the way you planned it. And I can’t say it would be better or it would be worse because the ‘what ifs’ don’t have answers. But I do know that all the mistakes and lessons and heartbreaks and little victories live inside you. And they’re there for you to tap into when you need them. And maybe that’s how you show gratitude for the things you thought might break you, or maybe that’s simply the definition of gratitude itself.
And maybe my favorite color is the color of every sunrise, in every season, reminding us of another chance at a new day.