Spring is in the air! The magnolias are in bloom (unless you're the magnolia tree in my front yard whose early blooms were obliterated by that freak snowstorm, but whatever, I'm not bitter), and milliners everywhere are working full tilt because the Kentucky Derby will be held on May 7. My grandfather, a former equestrian, has always had a love of horse racing, so this is pretty much the only sporting event I pay attention to. In the years since the births of my children, I have come to realize that parenting and the Kentucky Derby are exactly the same.
I mean really, you guys, if there's a better metaphor out there for parenthood than a very small person training you and then jumping on your back and whipping you to accomplish a nearly impossible task, I'd like to see it. Because in the race that is my life, my children are absolutely the jockeys to my thoroughbred: they've taught me a lot, I work hard for them to get them as much as I possibly can, and mostly we work together as a team but sometimes they're real jerks about our set up because sometimes I just want to chiiiiiiiiiiiiiill and they're like "NO! MOVE! FASTER! NOW!" Oh, and sometimes I get roses (on Mother's Day, mostly).
Here are 12 other reasons that parenting has more in common with Derby Day than many realize...
Some People Are Obsessed With It
People loooooooooooove the Kentucky Derby and get pretty nuts about it... just like some people completely immerse themselves in parenting culture. Their eyes light up like a kid at Christmas when they start talking about anything parenting related. It might all they ever want to talk about. (And, yes, with parenting this is often a necessary obsession, since raising a child takes pretty much 100% of everything you have.) It's like "Ummm... okay, maybe dial it back just a little bit, friend. There's more out there in life."
You Wear Clothes You Wouldn't Wear Under Normal Circumstances
The Kentucky Derby is known for its chic fashions, especially the over-the-top hats worn by the ladies. They're flamboyant and creative and amazing, yet something you would never wear in real life. Parent wardrobes are like that... but kind of the opposite when it comes to glamour. Like, I would never wear snot-covered t-shirts (not my snot) and the same yoga pants four days in a row under non-parenting circumstances, but here we are.
There Is A Huge Amount Of Time, Money, And Energy Put Into It
Everything about the Kentucky Derby is expensive. The horses, the stud fees the winner gets after, the outfits worn by the spectators, the sums of money won and lost. That's, of course, to say nothing of the hard work put into breeding and training a horse and athleticism required to be a trainer or rider. Similarly, parenting requires an obscene amount of money and an almost unfathomable amount of energy. Time? Minimum 18 years.
Lots Of People Aren't Into It At All And That's Okay
There are a whole bunch of reasons not to care about the Kentucky Derby. Maybe you question the ethics of horse racing or gambling. Maybe you once got into a bar fight with a jockey and seeing people cheer for them sets you on edge. Maybe you just don't get the point. No matter your reason, it's all good. You do you. Same goes for parenting: it's not everyone's thing, and that's fine, no matter what any tries to tell you.
It Makes You Want To Drink A Ton Of Mint Juleps
There's something about Derby Day that makes one want to sip daintily on a refreshing julep or two or three. Parenting makes you want to chug a pitcher full of them because OMG this is hard, guys. Also, mint juleps are delicious. Who doesn't love mint juleps?
The Names Seem To Get Crazier Every Year
Racehorses traditionally have punny, weird names—a personal favorite of mine is DoReMiFaSoLaTiDo. Similarly, people are taking more and more liberties with children's names these days. For example, Abcde (pronounced Absidee) is bestowed upon approximately 25 children a year. Sure, both horse names and human names can make my roll my eyes at points, but you know what? You can't make everyone happy with your baby name, so make yourself happy. I would, however, advise against naming your child for 1994 Derby winner Go For Gin: you're basically begging for difficult high school years. 2000 winner Fusaichi Pegasus, on the other hand, has kind of a hipster ring to it. I'm thinking they'd probably be born as the founding member of a Brooklyn art collective.
There's Enormous Hype Leading Up To It
The weeks leading up to the Derby are a buzz of who's going to take it all. The time leading up to becoming a parent is similarly exciting and, at points, exhausting.
Someone Could Get Hurt
Horse, jockey, parent, or child: the risk of physical or emotional injuries are ever present and a constant source of worry that inform many of our actions and choices.
It's A Lot Of Fun
Whether you're breathlessly cheering for your stallion or breathlessly chasing your toddler around the playground pretending to be her pet unicorn who is also a Storm Trooper, but a good guy (this may or may not have happened to me the other day), it's going to be a good time. Not all the time, but most of it.
Your Emotional Investment In The Outcome Is Huge
There's just something about the excitement of the day that makes the Kentucky Derby so compelling, and even more so when you have a horse in the race. Eliza Doolittle (of My Fair Lady, see video above) was at Ascot, not Churchill Downs when she famously said "Come on, Dover! Move your bloomin' arse!" but the general concept is the same. Parenting? You definitely have a horse in the race, and the level to which you're biting your nails to make sure everything comes out in your particular horse's favor is unparalleled because you've put a lot into that animal and damnit, you love that little pony.
Sometimes It's A Gamble
Obviously gambling is a big part of the Kentucky Derby, but it's an unspoken but pervasive aspect of parenthood. Because crap, you guys, there are a lot of variables here that can have long-term effects for not just you but your child, family, career, and community. It's nerve wracking! But the payoff is pretty awesome. May the odds be ever in our favor.
It's Over Before You Can Blink
The average Kentucky Derby lasts approximately 2 minutes. While it is, perhaps rightly described as "the most exciting two minutes in sports," it nevertheless leaves one thinking "Oh my God, there was so much buildup, and nervousness, and excitement and now it's over." Parenting is a lot like that, too. I sometimes feel like I sneezed and missed by son from age 3 to 4. The idea of children growing up way faster than we expect is cliched, but very true.
So this year, as you enjoy the Kentucky Derby, sit satisfied in knowing that you basically live it every damn day.