international womens day

In honor of International Women’s Day, this: a repurposing of an essay that I wrote for Canadian Family a couple of years ago, about my ambitions and frustrations in living up to my own self-assigned feminist mother bona fides. I still struggle with these questions, somewhat. Inasmuch as I don’t struggle anymore it’s because she’s defeated me. She’s my own wild horse (unstolen), and she throws me regularly. I’m mostly happy about that.

When I was 11 years old, I stole a horse. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say that I borrowed the horse — I had every intention of returning it — but still: I took a horse that did not belong to me. There are laws against that. I stole the horse because I wanted to ride the horse. That I had no saddle or bridle or harness nor any real skill at riding was of as little concern to me as the fact that the horse was not mine to ride. I wanted to ride, and ride I did. I got on that horse and jabbed my heels into his flanks and we sped forward, through the paddock gate and out into the hayfield where we galloped for two or three breathtaking minutes until he bucked and tossed me to the ground. It was exhilarating. I had broken at least two laws — theft and trespassing — and had very nearly broken my neck, but all I could think was: when can I do this again?

I’ve never forgotten that feeling. I remember it every time that I do something exhilarating, something that makes me feel alive. I remember it every time I watch my daughter do pretty much anything.

My daughter, who is 6 going on 26, has a knack for turning every activity into a hair-raising, knuckle-whitening exercise in full-throttle adventure. Trees are for climbing, fences are for scaling and stair banisters are for sliding. Beds cannot be slept in until they have been bounced into submission, and kitchen stools are for facilitating raids on the cookie cupboard. I’m pretty certain – no, I’m entirely certain – that if there were horses anywhere near our home, she’d have already figured out how to steal one. She’d return it, I’m sure, but she’d ride the hell out of it before she did.

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