Parenting | On Pink Ponies, and Learning to Let Go
I’ve just realised that, by choosing to illustrate this post with a photo of Max, I’ve kind of made it look like he’s thinking of leaving home to, like, go backpacking around Europe or something. Which, I mean, no, he’s obviously not: not now, and ideally not EVER, as far as I’m concerned, because, you know how some parents are all, “Ah, can’t wait until these little blighters move out and give us some peace! *chucklechuckle*”? I’m pretty much the opposite of that. I’m already dreading the day Max announces he’s moving out, and, to be totally honest, it’s not just Max himself I’ll miss. It’s EVERYTHING. Because, hello, my name is Amber, and I am hideously sentimental. As proof of this, because of me, Terry and I now have a bright pink pony statuette in our garden. This is it:
Handsome devil, isn’t he?
The pony was originally a boring, off-white colour, and I got him when I was… I dunno, 8? 10, maybe? Sometime at the height of my pony obsession, anyway. My parents recently found him in their attic during a clear-out, and even although I had totally forgotten I’d ever owned him, and would never have given him a second thought if they hadn’t suddenly produced him one night, as soon as they announced he was headed to the great knacker’s yard in the sky, I was like, “OH HELL TO THE NO.”
So we painted him pink and now he lives in the garden, the end.
(Er, actually, that’s NOT quite the end. The truth is, we painted him pink, then his head fell off. Terry was all, “Surely NOW you’ll admit that this thing is worthless, and agree to throw it away?” but I was just like, “WOULD YOU THROW ME AWAY IF MY HEAD FELL OFF? HUH? HUH?)
(I’m not convinced he wouldn’t, tbh. Ima stop thinking about this now.)
(This post wasn’t actually supposed to be about the pink pony, by the way. I’m just doing that thing where I’ve totally lost the thread, and I’m hoping that if I just keep typing, I’ll find my way back to it eventually…)
Now, I can’t claim to be unhappy with this state of affairs (I mean, what’s not to love about a bright pink pony, I ask you?), but Terry was slightly less impressed: partly because he was the one who had to spray the thing pink, but also because he knows this is a battle he’ll be fighting for the rest of his life. Last week, for instance, we got rid of Max’s moses basket.
(Aaaaaand we’re back! I’ve remembered what I was supposed to be talking about! Can I get a hallelujah, here?)
I say “we” got rid of the moses basket. If you know me at all – or were just paying attention during the Sad Tale of the Pink Pony – then you’ll already have gathered that this was totally Terry’s decision, right?
And, I say, “got rid”: we passed it on to a pregnant acquaintance who’s currently expecting her first baby – it’s not like we just sent it out into the world to fend for itself, you know?
Honestly, though? We may as well have, as far as I’m concerned.
“It’s just a moses basket!” Terry said in exasperation. “Max hasn’t used it for months now!”
And, of course, he’s right. Max still sleeps in our room at night, but, during the day, we’ve started putting him into the cot in the nursery for naps. (That’s a WHOLE other post, trust me…) He doesn’t need a third place to sleep, so the moses basket was just taking up space in the office, where Terry had started to use it as a convenient dumping ground for… well, everything, really. So, in essence, the moses basket was just a fancy storage container at this point: far better for it to go and start a new life somewhere it can fulfil its destiny, as a bed for babies, right?
Because, the thing is, it was NOT “just a moses basket”.
It was my baby’s first bed: the first thing we laid him down in when we brought him home from hospital.
It was the first thing we ever got for him, in fact: I can still vividly remember the day it arrived, and how I just couldn’t believe there would one day be an actual BABY in it.
For the first few weeks of Max’s life, the moses basket was kept in the living room: we’d put him in it for naps (Or try to, anyway…), and, every morning when I brought him downstairs to feed him, I’d carefully lay him inside it, and switch on the mobile, to keep him entertained while I prepared his bottle.
(We still have the mobile, as the person who took the cot didn’t want it, but Terry tells me its days are numbered, as it doesn’t fit onto the “big cot”. I’m embarrassed to admit that, when he told me this, I first of all told him I couldn’t remember where I’d put it (A lie he saw through instantly, because AS IF I don’t know the contents of every single one of my cupboards!), and then made a recording of it playing on my phone, purely because the sound of it takes me back to those first few weeks in a way that nothing else can…)
So it’s not JUST a moses basket, is what I’m saying. It’s weeks and months of memories: of hopes and dreams, and, finally, the reality of that precious little baby, snuggled inside it.
It was hard for me to part with all of that: just as it was hard for me to throw out all of the little newborn sleepsuits and size 1-3 clothes that he grew out of long ago, and which had been worn and washed so often that they couldn’t even be passed on to someone else. I kept a few of my favourites, because I just couldn’t stand the thought that I’d spent all that time carefully buttoning him into them, only to never see them again, but I know I can’t do that with EVERYTHING – so where do I go from here, I wonder? How do I harden my heart and become more like Terry – who listened to my impassioned plea for leniency towards the moses basket, and then said, “Amber, it’s a lump of plastic: it doesn’t have feelings, and it’s leaving this house today.” Seriously, though, what a GIT, right?
I know he’s right, though – and, I have to admit, it was nice to have one less baby-related item cluttering up the house, as hard as it was to let it go. It still made me feel just a little bit sad, though: I know I’ve said this a million times already, but I honestly can’t believe how fast the time is passing, and how quickly my little baby is turning into a little boy. And I know I have the photographs and the memories of all the things we’ll be letting go: I have a recording on my phone of the tune his first ever mobile played, and I’m thinking about having some of his old clothes made into a quilt or something, so I can keep a little bit of them, without having to rent a storage unit or something. But it’s not enough. The time just keeps on passing. We’re so excited to see him start walking and talking, but I know that, when he does, we’ll lose the little baby he is now, and I have to admit, I’m really struggling with that. Already, when I look back at the photos and videos of his first few weeks, I feel almost like I’m looking at a totally different baby, and I want to hold onto all of these stages for just a little bit longer, knowing that I’m going to want to remember them for the rest of my life.
So I keep on taking photos, and writing long, rambling blog posts, and I try my best to find a healthy balance between an important keepsake and… well, a bright pink pony, whose head is probably going to fall off again any day now, because pink ponies were never really meant to be garden dwellers, were they?
Since Max was born, though, I’ve been finding pink ponies everywhere. (Er, figurative ones, I mean. If I’d been finding ACTUAL pink ponies everywhere, that would be the weirdest thing EVER. And also pretty cool, let’s not lie to ourselves here…) I know I can’t keep them all, so I’m doing my best to photograph them, or write them down, so I can at least try to keep hold of them that way. I talked about this a few weeks ago, and I’ve no idea why this kind of documentation is so important to me, but, well, let’s put it this way: in the event of a zombie apocalypse, everyone else will be focused on finding food and shelter, and I’ll be the one trailing along behind going, “Er, guys? Don’t you think someone should be writing all of this down? For, you know, future generations and stuff?”
It’s kind of a stressful way to live, though, if I’m honest. I mean, imagine having sole responsibility for documenting the zombie apocalypse? And knowing that, if you didn’t do it well enough, no one would ever know what happened – or they’d know what happened, but they wouldn’t know how it felt… which is the most important part, surely? And, I should probably add here, it’s not that I’m comparing my baby son to the zombie apocalypse, but, then again, I totally AM comparing my baby son to the zombie apocalypse, although only in the sense that I feel they both deserve to be documented… and I just really wish the producers of The Walking Dead would find some way to reassure me that it’s being done. Like, they can’t just show someone scribbling in a diary, say? No one thought to do that? I DESPAIR, PEOPLE: I DESPAIR. Because you just know that in a few generations time, people will be straight-up inventing stuff, and being all, “Oh yeah, Rick was 20 foot tall, and he had guns for hands! Let’s build a statue and worship it!”
It’s a big responsibility, documenting someone else’s life, though. And I know that right now he’s not going to remember anything AT ALL (Which is a particular sadness all of its own), but I’m very aware that, in a few years’ time, the things we do will be the basis of his childhood memories – and it’s down to us, not just to make them memorable, but to make sure they’re remembered. Which, as I say, can be oddly stressful: like, I spent an entire day last week feeling vaguely annoyed with myself because Max was looking particularly cute in his little outfit, but the only photos I managed to get of him were these grainy iPhone ones, that can’t even be printed out or anything. OH THE TRAGEDY OF LIFE.
This, though, is why I hold on to things like pink ponies and tiny little worn out sleepsuits, and it’s why, if I didn’t have a strong hatred of clutter to balance out my sentimental side, you’d probably be seeing me on an episode of Hoaders sometime soon. I know that some of the things I want to record will turn out to be not that special – or to be special only to me – but hey: at least I’ll have tried. And if Max doesn’t appreciate my efforts when he’s older, well, I know a certain ceramic pony/occasionally-headless-horse who most definitely WILL…