When my daughter was very, very small – so small, in fact, I did not realize she could speak in full sentences – she laid upon me some words of wisdom that I’ve never forgotten. Strapped into her car seat, her chubby face streaked with juice, she said, “Mommy, life is hard. And a little bit tricky.”
Today a bronze statue was unveiled in London’s Trafalgar Square as part of something called The Fourth Plinth Project Series. It is a simple thing – not glorious or imposing like the lions – a boy on a rocking horse. The minute I saw it, tears filled my eyes. It reminded me of the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens. Captured very simply but very powerfully was the innocence of youth.
The article describing the statue, the artists, and the series said the statue “acknowledges the heroism of growing up.” Growing up is hard. I watch my children struggle with it daily; hell, I am struggling with it still at the half century mark. Today’s children are faced with so many choices, so many paths. I can hardly keep up well enough to do the bare parental minimum.
Every now and again one of my children will inform me that they do not want to grow up; that in fact, they want to go backwards. My daughter swears her best year was when she was five. Life was good, fun, and very simple. My son wants to be my little boy forever. His way of putting it: “Growing up sucks.” I can’t always disagree.
I think back to my own childhood and marvel at how simple everything was. I rode bikes, played games, lay in hay fields staring up at the sky for hours while a dog napped next to me. I remember having a rocking horse just like the one in the statue. It was made of pale wood with a painted red saddle and real leather reins. One of the rails got chewed up by a dog but it still rocked.
Growing up takes courage, especially these days, for kids and parents. Put one foot in front of the other, every day. Don’t look down. Find a park with a statue. Sit. Gaze. Enjoy. Remember. Watch out for pigeons. Chase them like you used to.