This weekend I watched the Kentucky Derby on TV. Did you know that the top three TV sporting events, in terms of female viewership, are (1) the summer Olympics, (2) the winter Olympics and (3) the Kentucky Derby?
My interest in the Derby goes back to my childhood and has nothing to do with fantastic hats and mint juleps. When I was a little kid (maybe 8 or 9), my mom needed my grandpa to babysit me. He was not a good influence, and my mom must have been desperate to ask him. As for me, I adored him.
Stuck with a little kid for the day, he decided to take me to the horse track. I loved horses and I read every horse book imaginable, and he liked going to the track; a win-win in his mind. (When I was older, one of my grandpa ‘s friends gave me a nonpaying job at his stable and I got to clean stalls, shovel manure, brush ponies and sometimes ride for free. I thought it was the perfect job back then. Sometimes I still do.)
At the track–the most unwholesome place you can take a child–he bought me hot dogs and ice cream cones. And he asked me to pick horses. My method was not scientific. I walked to the rail to get as close as possible and looked at the horses. Did they look happy? Relaxed? Nervous? Crazy? Was anyone petting them? (This was of utmost importance in my mind at the time. Petting meant they felt cared for.)
So I made my recommendations based on observation. Grandpa listened carefully and asked questions. He bet on a couple of “my horses,” and one won! He split the winnings ($30) with me.
I came home that night reeking of smoke and sick from junk food but with $15 in my pocket. My mom, of course, was furious. How could he take a little girl to someplace so nasty?! Full of old guys smoking cigars and gambling and drinking whiskey?! She was mad. Really mad. And he never was asked to babysit again. But I loved it. Here was a grown-up who thought I had good ideas, who thought I had something to offer! He took me seriously. Plus I got to see horses and eat soft-serve ice cream–what could be better?
I don’t gamble, I don’t understand the appeal of it, and I wouldn’t recommend any adult take a child to a place like that … but I still love horses. So the Triple Crown races are on my calendar. And I will always remember what it was like to be a child taken seriously by an adult, how great that felt, how affirming.
My grandpa died when I was in my early 20s and I sat next to his hospital bed praying for him and remembering the crazy things he did and, more than that, remembering how he made me feel.
In the May issue of Lutheran Woman Today we have a story on “The Wisdom of Children.” When you were a child, did you have adults who listened and took you seriously? What do you learn from the children in your life now? Do you take them seriously? Do you think they have something to offer? Do you listen?
Kate Elliott is the editor of Lutheran Woman Today magazine.