This weekend I removed a large, wooden rocking horse from our house and then I cried. My oldest didn’t play on that horse very often, but I still felt very sentimental about it. To be perfectly honest I couldn’t figure out why, but as I sat in the space where it used to reside a sadness washed over me.
The horse was quite large and when my son was small it sat in between the dormers of my bedroom. From the time my son was an infant we read books, (without fail), every morning. I kept two boxes of books on a dresser in my bedroom and when he got old enough he would go to the boxes, pick out three books (always three), and then crawl into bed with me. Sometimes he would climb down and request three more and other times he would head off to rock on that horse, but every morning as I waited for him to choose books I would watch him and see that horse out of the corner of my eye.
At some point my son’s pattern changed, as all children’s patterns do. One morning he didn’t request three books or climb into bed, but the rocking horse remained in my room.
That rocking horse marked my son’s growth in a strange way. In the beginning my son could barely reach the top of the horse’s head. Then he could reach the head but barely reach his leg up over the seat. Then he could get his leg over the seat, but barely touch the base of the horse with his feet. Then he could touch the base and just like that he could easily climb aboard and rock back and forth as quickly as he wanted to.
After my second child was born the horse moved into a different part of the house and has moved around a few times since then. My youngest will sometimes reach up and touch the horse’s mane or tail, but otherwise doesn’t show much interest in him. A few days ago he looked as if he wanted to ride, so I picked him up and placed him on the seat, but as soon as he was up he wanted to go back down.
The horse took up a lot of space in our house. When we sat on the floor to play with cars or trains or board games it always seemed slightly in the way. I moved it to the corners of the room or next to the wall but it was so big it always seemed to find its way back into our play spaces.
A few weeks ago my husband, (who believes we should get rid of 90% of the toys in our home), said it was time for that horse to go. He hauled it out of the basement and up the steps and I cried as he did so.
I cried with the realization that children grow quickly. I cried because that horse was strangely tied to a happy time of cuddling and reading books with my oldest. I cried because I felt I was denying my youngest the privilege of owning and using that toy.
And yet, in my heart, I knew that the toy was taking up space and that it simply wasn’t being used often enough to warrant its stay. So with that realization we took it out of the house and I said goodbye.
My oldest still loves to read books. If I take him to the library he’ll ask me to read the same books we brought home fifty times in a row. He asks me to read during breakfast and lunch and often sits on the couch with me to snuggle and read, but none of those occasions feels quite the same as the memory of that little boy, dressed in a sleeper, crawling into bed to read with me.
The horse had absolutely nothing to do with those books or that time in our lives, other than the fact that it sat in between the dormers of my bedroom. Yet, somehow my brain connected the two.
My youngest, who just turned sixteen months, didn’t start out a reader, but he is suddenly climbing into my lap and handing books to me. There is no place I’d rather be than resting my cheek against my son’s soft hair as I feel the weight of his tiny body against my legs and chest.
It is a reminder that this phase of plopping in my lap will also come to an end one day. A reminder that my children grow and become better, more competent humans every day, but a piece of me still yearns for those snuggling babies.