Monday, April 9, 2012

The Ponies' Last Hurrah

Our local library has a fun little program in which kids get to show off their "collections" (i.e. rocks, Legos, dolls) in a display case in the children's area for one month. A few of Anna's friends have displayed beloved items and Anna decided she wanted to, too.

The funny thing about the collection is that if kids are really "into" the particular item, they're going to have trouble parting with it. Either that or they're going to choose to display something they once collected, but that is no longer so near and dear to their hearts. This was the case with Anna. She chose her My Little Ponies, who have been collecting dust in a plastic bin under her bed like the cowgirl doll in the second Toy Story movie (that scene makes me cry every.single.time).

We arrived at the library one evening last week and began loading up the shelves. As we worked, I found myself stepping back just briefly in time. I saw the first pony Anna had ever received, the big pink one, when she was just two and couldn't have cared less. There was Minty and Pinky Pie, best friend ponies from all the videos, and the plethora of ponies she'd received at her fourth birthday party. There was Rainbow Dash and Chocolate Chipper and Star Song and Pretty Parasol (yes, at one point I knew all of their names, and she must have around 50. There were the tiny ponies (we called them "the Littles") and the ponies she'd gotten in a huge bag for $5 at the consignment sale and the newer ones from the revamped Pony series that she didn't like nearly as much. I saw us playing on the rug, when Anna was Ethan's age. I saw us doing their hair and building the pony "hospital" and wrapping kleenex bandages around their wounds. I remembered the days she'd take them all outside on the swing set or bring them on vacation (we lost Minty behind her carseat for what had to be at least six months), or choose the "special ponies" who could come to bed with her.

Then I felt the lump in my throat getting tight. My little girl is no longer quite so little, and will only keep getting bigger. What hurts sometimes as a parent is that you know the days are precious and that you should savor each one, but sometimes it's just so hard and days are long and the kids drive you crazy that you lose sight of that...until the kids are sleeping peacefully and you look at the long lashes on their cheeks and remember how beautiful they are and then feel so guilty for not stopping to enjoy the moment, for not remembering how precious each moment is.

In the library, we had gained a small following. Several other children ranging from toddlerhood to Anna's age were ooohing and ahhing over the vast assortment of ponies. "I wish I had some of these," one girl said wistfully. Anna took two ponies she didn't like (they weren't "official" My Little Ponies) and offered them to the girls. The gratefulness in their eyes and voices took me back. For a moment I was shaken out of my melancholy as I realized, while we had had a lot of fun with them, I couldn't help but feel Anna had been...indulged. I'd never seen myself as one of "those" parents. You know, the ones who showered their children with so much more than they needed? But now I stopped and began to wonder. I thought about how much our kids really need. I wondered how much my focus on acquiring toys for Ethan to discover and possibly learn to play with had led to an overabundance of toys in general in our home.

I looked over at Anna, with her curls and green eyes and bright smile. Outside night was falling. The lights in the church next door to the library had illuminated the stain glass windows. Spring was everywhere. This was now.

We stood the rest of the ponies up on the shelves. Reflecting and pondering and assessing my job as a parent are all necessary things. There would always be areas where we'd need readjust. There would surely be times that are sweeter than others and stages that just plain suck. But tonight we were giggling. Tonight my little girl was still a girl.

A horde of ponies in assorted hues and of all shapes and sizes, most with hair gnarled and frizzled, showing the signs of wear and love not unlike the Velveteen Rabbit, watched us go.

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