|Zach and Benny after the rodeo|
Since Ben was a toddler, that has always been his approach to life. He takes on the people and things he loves with a smile and with determination to please and achieve the goals he sets for himself. Ben confuses me at times with the focus of his determination. My parental confusion is subsided only by me reminding myself that I don't set Ben's goals. Ben sets Ben's goals.
With Zach behind me, cheering on his younger brother and watching a determined Ben on the field, I was reminded of a younger Benny with younger passions. Ben wanted to be a cowboy. At age three, Ben was a cowboy and you couldn't tell him anything different.
The goals I had for Ben consisted of counting to fifty, knowing his alphabet, and beating all of his three-year-old counterparts in advanced vocabulary. As is the case now, Ben did not buy into my goal setting. He wanted to be a cowboy.
He wore cowboy boots (many times with the only accompanying accessory being Woody from Toy Story underwear) and a cowboy hat. A toy horse was a constant attachment in his hands. Every video, book, and made-up game that captured Ben's attention involved a horse or cowboy.
Although I didn't give up on the alphabet, I decided to surprise him with tickets to the rodeo. We went as a family to the River City Round-up, dressed in semi-western gear. Ben was enamored from the minute we walked in the door. There were horses and cowboys everywhere. Dirt covered the floor and the smell of an over-sized barn filled our senses.
When the bull riding began, we choose seats closest to the side tunnels where the cowboys on horses waited at bay. Their job was to guide the bulls back to their pit following a ride or help the clowns in redirecting an angry bull from a rider in an undesirable position.
They were real cowboys. And they were cool. Ben knew this from the minute he laid eyes on them. Although he didn't miss a minute of the action in the bull riding arena, his attention was glued to the gate by the cowboys.
With his chubby toddler fingers on the gate and eyes locked on their every move, I allowed Ben stand by the tunnel and take it all in. He was determined to be with the cowboys. In his mind, he was a cowboy too.
I am unsure what my tot said to those focused horseman, but he got their attention. As I sat and watched the show with one eye keeping watch of little Ben, I heard a voice speak to me from the tunnel.
"Ma'am, can I take your son out in the ring?"
Huh? I had to look around to see if the question was directed to me.
"I will put him on my horse, Ma'am, and give him a ride. He really wants to be out here with us."
"Sure," I muttered as Ben ran to me with arms extended upward. He knew what was asked and wanted a lift to his cowboy friends. Out of my arms and onto a horse he went. With eyes sparkling and with the biggest Benny Lane grin, his determination paid off.
The cowboy rode with Ben in tow around the arena, center stage, with the other cowboys. And then he rode to the fence where the bull was penned. Reaching through the fence, the cowboy guided Ben on petting the bull. And then I got my little cowboy back.
"I pet the bull, Mommy! I'm a cowboy!!"
The picture above was taken at the end of the rodeo. The expressions on boys faces says it all. Proud big brother and happy cowboy. I admire your determination, Ben Lane. But we do need to keep working on that alphabet. XOXOX