Liam got a nasty splinter in the bottom of his foot tonight. (I actually don’t know when he got it — I found it while he was in the bath tonight.) He’s walking and running now, and we have wood floors — it was pretty inevitable. So, after bath time, Dan held him as still as possible, and I removed the splinter from his foot.
Which was no small task. Not only is it a challenge of coordination (using sharp tweezers to remove a tiny, dug-in piece of wood from a moving target that you don’t want to scratch, poke or damage in any way) but it’s a huge test of will (moms don’t like hearing their babies cry or scream, and generally, if there’s something we can do to stop it, we do whatever that is).
I remembered, tonight, as I put principle above both Liam’s comfort and my mental well-being, that I’m prepared to do this kind of thing (and dozens of other things that have caused my children to cry, scream, flail, thrash, hyperventilate and momentarily hate me) because I’ve spent my life around horses.
I learned, from a young age, to put aside my own squeamishness, worry, nausea, lightheadedness or fear in order to take care of, or comfort, another creature that can’t do it for themselves. Whether patting my horse while her shoulder was stitched together, flushing gross stuff from an infected eye or (literally) holding a part of my horse’s leg together while waiting for the vet, their need was greater than mine, and it became normal to put my own discomfort aside to care for them.
It’s the same strength and experience that has taught me to endure my kids’ vaccination screams, hold them down to administer medication with a clear conscience, or prise an embedded splinter from my toddler’s foot. My methodical detachment is motivated by their best interest, and happens despite the internal angst I feel. I know they’re hurting, or scared, but they need me to be the mom, and my horses have helped me learn to be exactly who I need to be.