Back in November, my oldest daughter, Cricket, had the nerve to go and turn 7. It was only fitting that her annual portraits reflect what so much of the year revolved around: her newfound passion for riding. In addition to weekly riding lessons, she has amassed horse-related book and toy collections that are bursting from every shelf in the house. Horses have become a central part of her life, and by extension, ours. During her 7th year, equine literature took our minds all over the country and across the world to Europe, Africa and Australia. We're in deep.
What a momentous milestone it is to watch your child develop a talent that surpasses your own. This year, the skills Cricket has honed in riding, art and so many other creative and physical pursuits humbled us and showed us what she is truly made of. Each new interest and talent reminded us that she is not a carbon copy of either of her parents, but her own person finding her way in this world. We're learning that our role as her parents is shifting; instead of the constant care we provided during her earliest years, we now need to provide her with the tools and support to follow her dreams—and then step back and watch her soar (or fumble, which of course, is part of the deal too).
For her birthday, she picked out new riding clothes and wore them proudly in her portraits (some in our backwoods and some at the stable). I think this lesson was the last time she rode Red, the gentle old pony who taught her the basics. Now she's moved on to working with several other horses, but I want to remember sweet Red and the place he'll always hold in her heart. He's become a good buddy of all of ours.
As I finish this post, Cricket and I are packing up for our first just-the-two-of-us, mother-daughter, cross-country adventure since she was an infant. In some ways, I regret that it's been so long; in other ways, I'm proud of how much of a family unit we are—never feeling much desire to divide and conquer. I've always expected too much of this first child of mine, and yet she's always risen to the occasion. She deserves some time to just be my big girl instead of playing the constant role of big sister. Wheels up on this trip and year 8!
I'm Julia Soplop, writer and photographer. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.