Over the weekend, I took Little Puppy to a sidewalk fair full of big noises and bright colors. I had seen this advertisement on Facebook proclaiming free pony rides and bouncy houses, so I knew LP would just die of happiness and fully expected his head to explode over all the amaze-balls stuff that I had found for him to soak up.
As we descended on the mayhem from the parking lot, Pup’s grasp grew tighter around my finger (the same way it does when he knows I’m about to hand him off to the daycare lady), and he eventually gave me the familiar tug asking to be carried. Hoisting him onto my hip, I reassured him that I’d be right next to his side, and that today, Mommy was staying for the action.
“It’s just you and me, today, Pup. We’re going to have so much fun together.”
I immediately saw the Bouncy Houses, you can’t really miss them. But I figured we would make our way around to them in time, and really wanted to find the pony ride. I imagined the little ponies all hitched around a circle and wondered if they’d have one of those metal box-seats safe for a toddler to sit in without assistance. What if they wanted me to sit with him on the pony? I mean, I didn’t really care about being embarrassed or anything, but how was I supposed to get a good picture of him riding tall if I was sitting right behind him? I hoped they Hwould let me walk beside the pony so that if he got scared, I could snatch him up really quick, but I definitely wanted to get a good picture out of this. And he would love it! A pony!
So we walked around the outskirts of the fair scanning for the pony ride when we literally ran into Hello Kitty. This was no average Hello Kitty. She was at least 8 feet tall and had a Hindenburg head. In my head, I was thinking, “oh! We should get a picture with Hello Kitty! It’ll be so cute!” (I actually have a pretty heavy dislike for Hello Kitty, but there were no other giant mascots around, so I went with it.) Little Pup had other ideas. I walked over to stand next to Ms. Kitty, but he just stood about 15 feet away, eyeing her suspiciously. I realized he didn’t know who or what she was, and didn’t trust her. And since I didn’t really care about the cat, I responded to him.
“You’re right, honey. You don’t know her. You are perfectly right to stand far away and watch first. You don’t have to play with her if you don’t want to. We can go somewhere else if you want to.”
After a moment, the most we got out of the Hello Kitty interaction was for Little Pup to run up, scream at her (while grinning), and run away. No loss. The ponies were still around somewhere.
Leaving the cat to terrorize someone else, we kept walking down the sidewalk, me walking on my tip-toes every few feet to spot the corral where we’d eventually get our amazing pictures of my son on top of a giant steed. There was a fenced-in area in the back, so I began to make my way over to it.
That’s when LP spied the sidewalk chalk.
There were a bunch of sticks of pastel chalk in a box, sitting behind an easel. I could see chalk-pictures on the pavement where it was obvious that earlier in the day, the chalk had been some kind of main-event. But here it was sitting, forgotten and dusty, in a Tupperware container on the ground. Little pieces of broken chalk were scattered around, and it was pretty clear that the box would later be discarded as unusable.
But Little Puppy was in love. He sat down quietly amid the din of the fair, and proceeded to pull out piece after piece, lining them up along the pavement. Sometimes he cracked them together in each hand, giggling at the sound. Sometimes he noticed that they left marks on the sidewalk and would pound the same piece over and over into the tan pavement until it shattered, and then pick up another to crack it again. I stood there for a moment, enjoying the chalk with him, showing him how to draw lines and make shapes on the ground. And eventually, my adult mind grew bored and ready to move on. After all, we needed to get to those ponies before naptime. Nobody should mix equestrian sports and sleepy toddlers. So I came thisclose to picking LP up by the hand.
But it struck me in that moment: “Who am I to tell him what’s better? Who am I to say that ponies are going to rock his world more than this chalk is doing right now? Isn’t he content and entertained? Isn’t he learning right now? Who am I to say what he should play with?”
My dear Little Puppy was absorbing all kinds of information just by playing with the sidewalk chalk. He was learning to see differences in similar objects. He was learning cause and effect. He was learning about friction and colors and force. About the laws of physics, and the composition of matter. He was learning creativity and imagination. He was learning joy in simple things.
And here I was telling him ponies were better. Almost.
So here’s to me trying to remember that my adult opinion of what my toddler-baby would like is really not important. Here’s to taking it one little step at a time through the world’s fair, and allowing him to lead me in the right direction.
Here’s to you, Pup. Teach me.
We never did find the ponies anyway.