To say that my daughter loves horses is an understatement similar to saying that I merely like bacon. She is a certified horse freak. Every Christmas and birthday list she has ever made had a horse listed as the number one item.
I hate having to decline her request to own a horse since she loves them so much, but our yard isn’t big enough for the horse, me, and large piles of manure. Not to mention, my wallet is not big enough for a horse and all its food and accessories. And on top of all that, I just know that it would be me that kept the beast from starving, or freezing to death, or getting the mange (or whatever it is that horses get).
Like I said though, I really hate that she can’t have a horse because she loves them so much. But I also really hate just telling her “no, you can’t have one.” You might even say I’m cowardly. So instead, I try to “creatively” discourage her desire for horse ownership . . . and I must say that I have failed miserably up to this point.
My first attempt was when she was quite young and had just discovered horses. Having only seen them on TV, books, or in parades, I figured I could end her relentless begging for one by telling her that many horses have been known to eat small children whole. . . . snatching them up in their dragon-like jaws, leaving only socks and shoes where a child once stood.
I thought that her wide-eyed look of horror was an indication that I had successfully ended the endless pleadings for a horse, but I was mistaken. I had obviously underestimated her determination and her level of gullibility. After a few discussions with less “creative” thinking adults over the following few weeks, confirmed to her that I may have been exaggerating a tiny bit with my cautionary tale of carnivorous horses.
During our next “I want a horse” argument, I tried to knock her off balance by telling her she could have one, but it would have to live in her room with her (a room that was barely large enough to house my daughter and her bed and dresser). She then looked up at me with no expression on her face and silently walked away.
I once again thought I had ended the horse debate by outsmarting her . . . until I went upstairs later that same night. She had not only cleaned her room, but had also managed to get a large pile of freshly picked grass and a large pan of water in preparation for the arrival of the horse. I was both annoyed and amazed at her resolve.
Feeling cornered by my own genius, I then had to resort to “researching” the local building codes, where I found that all houses that had livestock living on the second floor were required to have 48 inch wide stairs. Since our stairs were only 32 inches wide, we would have to wait until we could afford to widen the stairs. This seemed to be an acceptable, although disappointing answer to her.
The problem with most kids is they get smarter as they get older. And then they start rehashing in their little brains, everything you’ve ever told them. This was especially true with Natalie when it came to anything concerning the purchase of a horse due to my past track record.
We happened to be vacationing at Niagara Falls when she realized that the whole ‘horse in her room’ was just a diversion tactic and that I may have once again been exaggerating a bit about the building code requirements. This realization led to an impromptu horse argument as we all stood overlooking the falls.
Wanting to end the loud argument quickly, but also fearing that I would spend my afterlife being slowly roasted and pitchforked for using deception as a way end the horse debate, I decided to switch tactics. I told her that she could have a horse if she swam over the falls, and survived. Once again, she looked up at me with no expression and quietly walked away. I assumed her silence was due to her anger towards me, but at least there was silence.
Less than half an hour later, I was hailed by an angry park ranger who soundly chastised me for suggesting that my daughter should swim over the falls as payment for a horse. Apparently she had cornered him to inquire what type of accommodations the park provided for getting someone back up to the top of the observation area after swimming over the falls.
So now, after failing to dissuade my daughter’s horse ownership obsession by way of fear, exaggeration, deception, and ridiculous deal making, I am reduced to being that mean dad who just says “no” whenever the horse argument comes up (which is about every other week).
However, as atonement for my misguided and less than ethical attempts to discourage her horse freakness, we do now pay for her to take riding lessons which seems to be an acceptable compromise . . . . . for the time being.