Years of little were spent with a request every morning from my girl, “Mommy, can you do two ponies?” I’d pull her hair to each side, tie it up with elastics, and off she’d bounce to take on her day. 

She asked for “two ponies” so often they seemed a part of her little girl uniform. At first, those pigtails were just tiny bouquets of baby curls. As she grew they became the perfect accessory to a wide-open smile marked by missing teeth and easy giggles. She’d run and adventure, and they’d swing along as if dancing to the carefree joys of childhood. 

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But then 11 came. She turned 11, and off she went to sixth grade, to middle school. It felt like a bubble had been burst and along with it, her little was slowly fading away. Each morning I’d ask, “Can I help you with your hair?” And she’d softly respond with, “No, I’ll just wear it down.”

She was becoming conscious of a judging world, starting to soak in social pressures, and bedtime tears would sometimes come when she needed to release the weight of it all in her momma’s arms.

Middle school is such a transitory time for our kids in their growing. They are often still truly little on the inside while their days are spent bushwhacking through a jungle of heightened self and peer awareness and their bodies are prepping for a storm. 

We have now been home in this time of social distancing for over a month. There are many anxieties that lay heavy over our adult heads and hearts. However, I’ve noticed a renewed spirit in my children. In the absence of the usual packed family schedule and school dynamics, a playfulness is returning. The backyard swings are in constant motion, there is fort building, plays and songs are being performed on top of a giant rock.

For now, gone is the thick, social-pressure mud of middle school from my girl’s play boots. 

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So often, I have wished I could shield my sweet girl from some of the pains of these murky pre-teen years. So many times, I have yearned for the days of little in our home to last a bit longer. Today I look out my kitchen window, and I see a girl who is standing on a swing, gliding back and forward, laughing with her siblings. There’s an easy smile on her face and the dimples and squints that come with true joy. “Two ponies” sway beside her cheeks with each pull of the swing.

I feel a grateful warmth fill me.

There is a very real struggle in our country at the moment, in our world. We are all touched and affected by the challenges and hurts brought with this virus. Some more than others, some in different but equally hard ways. There is much that is out of our control, that seems overwhelming, and that brings us to tears or anxious thoughts.

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And yet, grace is still there, pointing us toward the little things to bolster our hearts. In finding gratitude, we’re finding our rainbows during this time. In my backyard, I have a girl who is feeling freedom and happiness in letting herself be little just a bit longer. And . . .

She’s wearing pigtails again. 

Emily Roussell

Emily Roussell is author of the tender children's book for new babies and moms, ‘Rock You Tonight.’ It reads like a lullaby, while telling the story of a tired and distracted mom who slows to fully embrace the wonder of and love for her baby. This book was penned when her first children, twins, were just months old. Life was exhausting, upside down, and …blissful. Emily and her husband gratefully enjoy a happy circus of life with four children. You can find her at emilyroussell.com.