Voting with his Feet

I was excited yesterday because Joshua’s Riding for the Disabled sessions began last night, truly confirming that summer had arrived. It ends every October as it is an outdoor area where they ride and so the dark nights and cold weather prevent it from running through the Winter months. He really enjoyed the last sessions last year, laughing, waving and showing off, so I was optimistic for RDA’s return. My only reservation was that he was not kicking last Autumn, and so I was not sure how that might work when riding a horse.

I had asked Yorkshire Grandma to make sure that he was fed and wrapped up warm ready to leave the house at 6 pm. I was home from work at 5.40, so had time for a quick cup of tea then get on our way as the stables are 20 minutes away. Unfortunately when I got home, Joshua was fast asleep on the settee and even the dog commotion of my arrival home had not disturbed him, so we knew he was in deep sleep. Ordinarily I never wake him . if I can avoid it, as it can lead to seizures. But it was too short notice to cancel and I left him as near 6 pm as I dared, before I roused him and put his boots on. He gave me a smile on waking but he was pretty cross when immediately I began to put his splints and boots on. He still tried to sleep on the car journey to the stables, but could not get comfortable.  I think I would have been pretty cross too if my sleep had been disturbed and I had been bundled into a car when all I wanted to do was sleep.

We stayed in the car once we arrived ,while the class before us finished off as it had turned wintry cold. But Joshua began to get restless and started to kick at the car to get out. Once outside he was stir crazy and wanted to get onto his horse, Digby. so he was leading me a dance while the previous class dismounted and then two smaller children got onto their horses first. At one point he was twisting and pulling against me that, I am not really sure how, but  I lost my balance and we both fell flat onto our backs on the ground. I landed on my elbows which are now sore and grazed, but Joshua lay on his back waiting for me to pull him up again, with a surprised look on his face. I jumped up, dusted myself down, then helped to heave him up too, when thankfully his Dad arrived and then it was time to get onto Digby.

Joshua was keen enough to walk up the ramp and to get into the saddle, but as with cars and supermarket trolleys, he now cannot bear to be still – which was not a problem last Autumn. So he was impatient while they were adjusting his stirrup length but luckily they set off and he looked happier to be moving. He went round the yard a couple of times and gave us a big wave when he passed us, although he was not smiling, he looked rather agitated. When he passed the mounting block, he made an effort to get off the horse and as his session wore on, he became more determined. In the end we intervened before the end of his lesson, and asked to get him off before he hurt himself or one of his patient assistants. He was frozen when he got off the horse and he gladly headed for the warm car.

I was disappointed as I had been looking forward to the only after-school, physical activity that he does, but I should have, with hindsight, left him asleep. He really did everything within his power to tell me that he did not want to go riding last night, but as it was the first one, I ignored his communication and ploughed on, then regretted it later. I plan to take him one more time at the end of the month, and then will see if it was simply because he was tired and cold that he objected. If he still makes a fuss then we will pull out, as they have a long waiting list of potential riders and so we should allow someone else have our place if it does not make him happy any more. He has been riding for several years now, maybe 7 or 8, so it would be the end of an era, but perhaps this is not an activity that adult Joshua wishes to partake in and he certainly voted very effectively with his feet last night and I have bruises to prove it.

Free Will

As I drove Joshua to Riding for the Disabled last night, the first session since the summer break, I started to think how little opportunity in life he has to choose how he spends his free time. We have entertained him with activities throughout the summer holidays that we think that he will enjoy, but he never gets to choose, that decision is taken on his behalf. His only recourse for action then is to object, or otherwise, when he gets wherever he is taken and certainly there have been plenty of occasions when he votes with his feet.

Yesterday, my husband took Joshua for  a day out to meet up with his sister and Joshua’s two cousins and they met for lunch – which would always meet with his approval and apparently he tucked away a large portion of fish and chips – and then they went to an indoor play area for his cousins to climb and run around. Joshua sat watching with the adults, as he could not access the activities. Joshua has always been a great observer, but who knows what was going through his head : was he sad that he could not play like his cousins? was he happy to watch all the fun and games from the sidelines? was he bored by just watching? The reality is that he did not object, so we have to presume that he was happy enough to be there.

Then he got home and he was happy to curl up on the settee and watch Robbie Williams on his Live8 Show, but instead he was messed about with again as I swapped his shoes and put him into long trousers as he was booked in to go horse riding with RDA. So I persuaded him off the settee, and got him into the car, where he was very sleepy during the 20 minute drive to the stables. This is when I was pondering if I was doing the right thing…..

When we arrived at the stables, he sat in the car waiting for his turn and whenever I opened the passenger door, he closed it again, laughing. It was fairly clear signal of his preference. But Mum knows best, so I helped him out of the car when Digby became free and Joshua walked up the ramp happily enough and mounted the horse. He then enjoyed a half hour session, waving, pointing and flashing his tummy at me each time he walked passed and nobody would suspect his initial reluctance, as he was fully engaged in the activity.

So my dilemma is this, did I do the right thing to overrule him? My concern is that if I allowed Joshua  to choose how to spend his free time, he would be on the settee watching Shrek 2 or Robbie Williams on loop! Instead, he came back to that as soon as he got home from riding. Was horse-riding in his best interests or were we going because I enjoy it and think he should? As Joshua’s parent, I make a lot of decisions for him that other 17 year olds, and younger than that, would make themselves – what to eat, what to wear, what to do…. Now that he is more vocal, perhaps I should consult him more and allow him to make more of his own choices in life, and see what happens. But one thing that he has no choice over is the fact that he goes back to school tomorrow!