On being a cowboy
I never knew many cowboys growing up; as one of the younger members of my family, I never saw many cowboys growing up either.
However, being around since the start of this little cowboy’s life, I’ve realised it’s not all plastic guns and saddles. Sure, ages 0-3 were fine, playing on his rocking horse, watching the horse racing with his great granddad, but from 4 years plus, life gets tough as a cowboy.
Firstly, there’s a lot of paraphernalia to carry about: belts, hats, rope (so much rope!) and other essentials for tying up your horse. Then there’s school: being taken from the comfort of your own rocking horse and placed on a coloured table according to your ability, not to mention the intricacies of working out who you’re going to marry.
Joking aside, this is the first time I’ve had a truly close-up experience of seeing a person pass through the different stages of life. And in my opinion, it seemed quite tough.
Obviously, most people won’t remember the transitions they went through before hitting their teen years, but as an onlooker, my perception is that we move through our formative years at quite a speed.
As I was playing Junior Scrabble with him, after we’d completed a 3 mile run, for most of which I could only see the back of his long spindly legs move in a huge unabashed motion, I wondered whether if he didn’t yearn for the days when he didn’t know one letter from the next, never mind trying to place them within another word on a Scrabble board, or when he didn’t have to continuously improve his abilities and henceforth use those abilities, whilst putting aside time to watch his cowboy films.
But the response was ‘no’. He didn’t want to be 3 again. There’s a lot to do, but no, he’s ok with being 6. That’s the thing about kids, they want to get better, they don’t stop at 5 years and say ‘I know enough words to see me through life’, they don’t stop until they’re the best, better than all their friends, better than everyone else on their table.
Somehow, further down the line, when there are no more stars to collect or year groups to move through or grades to achieve, we sometimes lose that quest to advance; we lose the drive to get better, preferring to plateau at the moment when we’re just about ok.
There is of course an argument that we should be happy with our lot, and I agree that we should be comfortable in our own skin. However, playing Scrabble with my nephew and seeing his drive to win only ignites that child-like passion to be the best, and why shouldn’t we? Would our 6-year-old self be happy if they knew we weren’t always playing to win, but simply coasting along life at the point we were just comfortable with things?
As my nephew put it, there’s a lot to do now, but is the reward of knowing more, being able to run faster, throw a ball higher and play a ukulele worth it? I can’t answer for my nephew, but seeing the smile of elation when he achieves something new seems to imply that it’s worth every second!