Raising Strong Girls – It Takes a Village (or a Barn)

bros-alicekem2I reached out to Square Peg as a new mother, eager to expand my world beyond the borders of burping, diapers, and the now mandatory yet psychologically damaging New Mother’s Group.  I had grown up with horses but had been away from the horse world for  20 years.  I thought getting back into riding would be a nice outlet.

Shocked to find I was a completely different rider than the one I had been in my youth, I was now cautious, slightly nervous and incessantly playing out “what if” scenarios in my head. Joell patiently brought me back to basics and soon had me racing through the redwoods on retired race horses like Sam, Pearl, and  Jack. Now comfortable (if not always confident) in the saddle, I realized I had not lost my energy, and devil-may-care attitude but simply channeled it into the tiny body of my daughter.

I was gently asked to remove my daughter from her first pre-school.  At the second school my daughter was suspended twice (once for assaulting a teacher).  Other parents and adults begin to cower visibly from the one-two punch of her verbosity and physical aggressiveness.  My child was neuro-typical but was she “special needs?” And what the heck does that mean anyway?  

IMG_6382I once disciplined her with the time honored, “not another word” line in the sand – she looked at me for a few seconds and sang, “LAAA” – she was three at the time. What I found endearing; her intelligence, her bravery, her verbal gymnastics and her wit – other adults found disturbing.

Shortly after the “LAA” incident, my daughter and I wrestled through another situation where she was not allowed out of a “time out” until she apologized – after six hours, she showed no indication she was weakening.  In exhaustion, I called Joell.  “Bring her in to ride,” she said. Although most children start riding at five, Joell felt that my daughter’s command of language and ability (when she wanted to) to follow directions would keep her safe.  Joell, her son, Greg, Sigourney and the pony, Sugar listened to her non- stop chatter, gently re-directed and worked through her challenges, and clearly loved her for who she was.  

She was never seen as a “problem” at Square Peg.  Her many gifts were celebrated; her spirit encouraged and admired.  When she was having trouble with friend’s parents, teachers and even her mother, she was always welcomed, treasured, and given space to be herself at Square Peg.

Today, she’s a happy, positive kid with a large circle of friends.  She rides (still at Square Peg) and she’s doing very well in martial artskaro-beetleheadless (shocker).  She’s a straight-A student and her teachers say that her curiosity and leadership only add to the learning culture of their classrooms.  

When she was a very small child, I felt she was a leader, incredibly bright, gentle (most of the time) and full of good humor.  I wondered if she was not being judged so much on her behavior but on her gender. We expect little boys to be rambunctious in play and action but not little girls where we value peaches and cream complexions and big blue eyes. I speculated that it was her frustration with the lack of speech and cognition in her age group that was leading to her outbursts.  

But it was  Square Peg who embraced and championed her strength and intelligence at this critical time.  Square Peg allowed me to drown out the negative voices and confirmed what I already knew about my daughter.  I’m the one that has grown as a parent and advocate of my child; my kid was never the issue. But then, they always knew that at the Barn…

The Kunze Family Challenge has bet met AND EXTENDED!  Another family has stepped in to create a Second Challenge. Anything you donate by the end of the year will be matched up to $10,000. Your support is CRITICAL to Square Peg.  Thank you ;-)

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