We are in the car on the way to visit some friends back in the UK for Christmas. Guy drives, I knit, our three children sit in the back and make observations about the outside world. It has snowed, and as we drive over the hills the landscape increasingly resembles a white-blanketed scene from a Christmas card.
“Look! It’s a horse!” shouts our youngest son, pointing frantically out of the window.
I turn to look, identify the animal, and attempt to hide my smile.
Our eldest son is less diplomatic. “That’s not even a horse! That’s a cow! Isn’t that a cow, Mummy?”
He’s right, it is a cow. But there was a time when my suburban boy wouldn’t have been able to point out a horse in a full stable.
On one memorable trip to feed some horses near a friend’s house, he shouted “Cows!” over and over again, then refused to believe our corrections that these were, actually, the horses we’d come to see. “Horse-cows” was the compromise he eventually agreed to, rather skeptically for a three-year-old.
I lived miles from the nearest village for the first five years of my life, and on the edge of Northumberland for the subsequent 13. I rode horses every week with my mum. How did I end up with children who don’t know the difference between a horse and a cow?
These small reminders that our children are not simply smaller versions of ourselves are not uncommon, but always surprise me. Our sons look very like me; our daughter is the image of my husband, but inside they are wholly, completely themselves.
It’s humbling and inspiring at the same time.
But seriously – he doesn’t know what a cow is! I have work to do with this one.