A Pretend Horse

My darling girls are four years old today. There’s virtually nothing I can say that won’t sound terribly cliche. It’s gone by so fast. They’ve gotten so big. They’re not babies anymore. All are true statements that sound painfully trite when I say them.

My lifelong best friend is having her first baby, which has brought up in me all the thoughts and feelings I had when the girls were first born. Looking back on these four years, the most unexpected aspect of it is the paradoxical nature of parenting. I’m perpetually at odds with myself. Essentially, to be a good parent I must work myself out of my job. I’m intensely proud of their accomplishments and character but feel a cold grip on my heart when I see them need me less and less. I revel in the girls they are today but grieve over my babies who are no more. Watching them today was a joyful, yet sobering time.

For their birthday, Avery requested to ride a real horse. Lily, on the other hand, declared her desire to ride a pretend horse. I knew I could manage to find a real horse for them to ride. This is Texas, after all. The pretend horse threw me for a loop. Was she talking about an invisible, imaginary horse? She could ride that horse anytime and without my facilitation! Was she talking about a stick horse, a carousel horse, a rocking horse? Her only elaboration when I asked for more information was that this horse would be named Harmony.  So I went ahead and found a stable where they could sign up for one lesson and decided to wing it in regards to the pretend horse. When we drove in the parking lot of the stable this afternoon,  Lily immediately got frustrated and yelled, “These are real horses!! I wanted a pretend horse!” Avery was delighted, so at least that was going my way.

As we got out of the car, Nenna, who was along for the experience, and I just told her she didn’t have to ride a real horse. She could just hang out and watch Avery if she didn’t want to participate. Well, that didn’t last more than a second! Her instructor showed her her horse for the lesson, and Lily completely changed her tune. She was pleased that the horse was named Joy, like the character from Inside Out.

I stood back as the two instructors led my little bitty girls through the process of tacking a horse. They brushed the horses’ legs. Avery’s was named Euphoria, by the way. They cleaned the dirt from the hooves; they fetched and carried the reins and bridles; they strapped the boots on the horses’ forelegs. I had to stop myself from stepping in. My first instinct was to call out, “Oh, they’re not strong enough to carry that!” or “They don’t know how to feed those straps through those holes.” or “They’re not big enough to hold those reins!”

But they were strong enough, smart enough, big enough. They led their horses to the arena. They listened to the instructors. They followed directions. They mounted. They rode. They circled. Lily even trotted. Then they led their horses back to the stables and put away the reins, bits, and bridles. They cleaned the horses’ legs and fed them treats. They did all these things, and it made me immensely proud and just a tiny bit sad. I know I have years to go, and even when they no longer live under my roof they’ll still need me, but I have to say that they will never be babies again. They may be my babies, but they are not babies.

Life is unmercifully busy and full of things that are so unimportant. I force myself to frequently reflect on the blessing that these girls are to me. Not just the joy they bring to my days, but the remarkable example of God’s loving kindness that they are. My body should never have been able to conceive them. My body should never have been able to carry them. My body should never have been able to bear them. But it did. I remember laying in the hospital a day after they were born, surrounded by wide-eyed doctors saying to me, “This never should have happened.” But it did.

It happened. It is still happening. These precious children who reside under my care are just as much a miracle today as they were four years ago. A broken vessel was used to bring life into this world. He has given me life abundantly.

 

 

Now pictures of course.

 

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