I recently saw a post in a forum from a mom whose kids had tried to buy a dog from the internet, it was a funny but a hell no moment she described, and it made me think of when my brother, sister and I bought a pony. When we were little, my brother and sister and I bought a pony over the phone when our parents were out of town. This needs a little bit of context. We lived on a farm, we already had horses and somewhere for them to live, that is an important detail. Or at least it makes us seem a little less crazy. Not a lot but a little less.There are so many things to unpack in this story that I think we have to get started.
It feels like one of those eighties movies where the kids grew up on their bikes and came home when it got dark kind of thing. It probably was. Or like a cartoon where the grown up people are just legs with voices that make noise. Our parents were away, and I have no memory of who was watching us. If someone was. I bet someone was, just not well.
My siblings and I found a newspaper with classified ads in the back, and in those ads there was one for a little pony. They were pretty much giving him away, which we of course thought was a great deal. A free horse. What could go wrong. So we called the number, asked some questions that most likely did not qualify as good or knowledgeable, and soon had a deal. We were going to pick up the pony when our parents came back home. It is unclear who these people were selling the horse, or why they were selling him and most of all, why they would make a deal with children on the phone. There were so many questions. Still are. Who knows, honestly We combined our saved pocket money and when our parents came home at the end of the weekend we presented them with our pitch, well not really a pitch, remember, it was a done deal as far as we were concerned, all we needed now was to get our parents to pick up the pony. We had plans. Somehow, we got my dad on board.
So my dad got the trailer on the car and got going. It was probably in our favor that he didn’t know a lot, but somehow thought our story sounded like a good idea. It felt like it was easy to convince him, they might have been upset with us, but it wasn’t long before he was on his way.
The pony was a little Shetland pony named Pontus. He had never lived indoor. He was so little that they had to prop hay bales around him for the trip home so he wouldn’t fall over in the horse trailer. When he came home we had prepared his stall in the stable for him, we gave him some food and left him for the night. When we came down the next morning there were no walls in the stable, the new guy had completely destroyed the stable. His ideas of confinement and boundaries were different from ours.
So what does this have to do with parenting you ask? Except for the obvious craziness of unsupervised kids doing bat shit stuff and getting away with it, and getting adults onboard I think there are a few lessons to take away from this.
One is happy accidents and the benefits of sometimes going with the flow, even when the flow is a raging river in the wilderness. This definitely feels like that, and it turned out really wonderful. Before my parents left on their trip they didn’t know that they would come home to a new family member. Pontus ended up spending the next twenty odd years with us, teaching us all lessons along the way. A lot of them about big personality in a small package and non conformity.
Another is that sometimes running with your kids crazy ideas turn into beautiful stories. I am not suggesting you should lean into letting your kids buying ponies on the internet, or puppies or kittens either, an animal is a huge responsibility that you have to be committed to. But maybe when your kids have crazy ideas for new games, a different route or a new recipe that sounds like it might not be what you thought of, maybe run with it. See where it goes.
And of course Pontus taught us that we are not all needing the same kind of space and to not judge a book by its cover. A very small horse can do a lot of damage and win everyone’s hearts in one fiery gesture. And a very small package might need more space than a bigger one. That goes for us and for our kids and is a good reminder when we talk to and parent our kids. The relationship we build with our kids can be much deeper and more connected if we allow for the space we all need.
And by the way, this was totally my dad’s way of adding to our family. A few years later an Italian guy turned up at their doorstep with a puppy, but that is a different story.