Killing All the Unicorns

I’ve always been sensitive to my daughter’s emotions. For years, my husband and I altered words to ensure we didn’t hurt her tiny membranes. Instead of sick, we’d say someone was “lying down.” If someone died, we’d used the word “passed.” My husband and I tiptoed around the sadness of life like clumsy ballerinas.

The movie The Land Before Time ruined the whole shebang. The mom dying in the film set off an avalanche of questions about life and death. And I was grossly unprepared. I hadn’t read any blogs. Hadn’t talked to any of my mommy friends. I didn’t know how to answer her questions.

Luckily, I was in the middle of a Californication marathon and remembered a great line from the show. David Duchovny’s daughter asked him why people died and he responded: “Because it makes life important.”

That was my starting point. It was also my ending point. I had shielded my daughter from all of life’s shit. How could I keep up the charade? I couldn’t run around, screaming at the top of my lungs when someone brought up cancer. And if someone really died, I’d have a lot of explaining to do.

The shit hit the fan when she asked me the pivotal question: “Do unicorns exist.”

This was a tricky one.

Say NO and I kill Greek mythology.

Say YES and I’m building up a wall of fantasy so big she’ll probably end up being a stripper.

I said No. I told her they were mythical creatures that didn’t really exist.

She then asked me about mermaids. Were they real? So I killed them too. “No. They don’t exist.”

It was the dumbest thing I could have said because she started crying. She loved Ariel and wanted a pet unicorn. And now that they didn’t exist, nothing made sense to her. How could Ariel be so nice and sing so sweetly and not be real?


More questions.

No answers.

Bad mommy.

My hubby came to the rescue and told my daughter that I just hadn’t seen them. And next time we were at the beach, all we had to do was squint real hard and we’d see mermaids singing out past the booies.
It was a brilliant response. And in a single sentence all the unicorns and mermaids of the world were resurrected. Unfortunately, the thing that died was my credibility. But maybe I didn’t deserve it.


Creative Commons License photo credit: zoomarCommunist Unicorn Spears Capitalist
Creative Commons License photo credit: zoomar






  1. I completely suck at these types of questions. I usually end of stuttering and backtracking and sounding foolish… hoping I can distract my kids so they’ll forget their original question.

  2. Shell, redirecting is the perfect approach. I wish I was prepared because when the questions started coming, they were fast and furious. Thanks for your comment.

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