Life Lessons from Nova the Unicorn: Learning to be Responsible

When my sister and my adorable 2 year old nephew and 6 week old niece were in town visiting for the weekend, we decided to take all 5 kiddos to an indoor play place to burn some energy and have some fun!

Five year old Miss M asked if she could bring her brand, new baby unicorn with us.  My sister had just gifted it to her the day before.  It had fallen off of her Christmas gift when they were down last so it was a welcomed surprise in the middle of January!  Miss M looked at me as if to anticipate me saying “No” with my usual schpeel about it getting lost or dirty, yadda, yadda, yadda…  But my not-so-little girl is growing up quickly and times like these are starting to serve as opportunities for her to learn responsibility instead of me just seeing it as one more thing to keep track of in a crazy play place.  So, I said “Yes.”  But, I also told her that if she was bringing it, she was in charge of it.  I wasn’t keeping track of it or holding it or making sure we had it before we left.  Her tiny, stuffed unicorn would be her responsibility because I know she is old enough to look after it.  She excitedly agreed and stuffed ‘Nova,’ the unicorn into her coat pocket.

We played at the play place for a good 30 minutes before Miss M came over to me and asked if she could go over to the coat area to get Nova.  Since I was supervising 4 year old Mr. C and 2 year old, Mr. O and I could see the locker holding her coat from where we were playing, I agreed.  “By myself?” she asked with glee. “Yes!  By yourself!  But go straight there and then come straight back!”  We’ve been testing out these little independent runs when the opportunity arises (in the safest of areas of course!)  They still make my anxious heart pound until she returns but her proud smile makes it all worthwhile.  I watched her run straight over to her locker, pull ‘Nova’ out of her coat pocket and then run back.

Miss M proudly took Nova through the entire playground.  She was being incredibly responsible and felt so proud.  When we stopped to eat lunch, she put her foot up on the bench of the booth to show me that she had even pulled down her sock and stuffed Nova up inside the leg of her pants around her ankle to keep her safe.  Impressive.

Mr. O and his 2 weeks-older-than-him cousin, Mr. N took me for a tour through the playground.  It was so much fun watching these two adventurous 2 year olds climb and explore and beg for help when they need a boost up to the next level! As we waited for our turn on the slide, I noticed a shiny, gold loonie to the side of the entrance.  I hoped that our 2 year olds wouldn’t see it.  They didn’t.  But as if he had telepathic abilities, 4 year old Mr. C popped up out of nowhere and said “Look, Mommy!  I found a coin!  Can I keep it?” No.” I said, explaining that this coin must belong to another child in here and that when they realize that it’s missing, it wouldn’t be very nice to return to find that someone had taken it. “Yeah, that wouldn’t be nice.” Mr. C agreed. Phewwf.  We pushed the coin to the side and carried on down the slide.  At home, we have a “finders, keepers” rule when it comes to coins found around the house.  It started as an incentive to get my hubby to stop leaving pocket change behind every time he sits on the couch or drops his dirty jeans in (a.k.a right beside… grr!) the laundry hamper.  While he doesn’t seem to have become anymore careful, our kids sure have become wealthier.  Straight into their piggy banks the stray coins go!  The best was when Mr. C walked up to me with 4 $20 bills in his hand and said “Look Mom!  I found money!  Can you help me put it in my piggy bank?  It won’t fit in the little hole.”  WTF!  I asked him where he found this money… “in your wallet!” he replied.  Yeah… that’s where we need to draw a line in our “Finders Keepers” sand! Ha!

After playing for a while longer with my sister, our little boys, and seeing Miss M either pop up to peek through the ‘windows’ in the play tubes while holding Nova or seeing her crawl by us with the little ‘Nova-bulge’ in the ankle of her pants, we all gathered around for a rest and a drink of water.  It was then that I noticed that Nova wasn’t in her hand, nor was there a Nova-like bulge in the ankle of her leggings.  I was hesitant to ask her where her little unicorn was but I did… and just as I suspected, she quickly reached down to her ankle but…Nova wasn’t there.  Crap.

“Don’t panic!  We will find her!” I told her little, disappointed face before she had a chance to cry.  “Will you?” whispered my sister.  “God, I hope so…” I replied as I started climbing up the playground on the hunt for our little, missing unicorn.  Miss M and I searched every square inch of that place.  We found a lot of other things that we wished we hadn’t; dust bunnies, stray bandaids, a puddle of water (that we hoped was water) but no Nova.  Ugh.  Miss M kept repeating to me that “We will find her!  Because I only had her in this playground and at that table so she has to be here somewhere! Right, Mom?”  “Yes!” I replied with a little less certainty each time.  While trying to stay positive on the outside, on the inside I was cursing…I swear…if I made my kids leave an abandoned loonie behind based on principle and then someone takes my kid’s brand, new toy, I will have some  strong words for karma.  At one point, as we passed my sister in our search for Nova, I asked her where she had bought said little unicorn.  “At a greenhouse near my house!” Crap.  Her house is just shy of 4 hours away.  This wasn’t going to be an easy fix.

To be clear, this wasn’t about my daughter losing a toy unicorn.  She has many unicorns.  It’s quite the addiction, really.  It also wasn’t about fixing everything for her.  My mind raced trying to decide what to tell her about this experience if we didn’t manage to find Nova.  As I started eyeing the hands of other children to see if anyone was mistakenly holding Miss M’s little unicorn, I wondered if I should tell her about it possibly going home with another child by mistake… or a child who doesn’t have any unicorns taking it… or… or… or… I honestly couldn’t think of a decent explanation for why Nova could be missing if we knew exactly where we had lost her, just like Miss M said.  She had also been doing such an incredible job of being responsible for Nova the entire time so I really didn’t want her to feel deflated by this experience.  Above all, I really didn’t want to ‘pop’ her innocent ‘bubble.’  She is five years old and is fortunate enough to be living a childhood where when you lose something and know where you lost it, you will find it.  There is no other possibility in her mind.  I really didn’t want to have to tell her that sometimes people do things that aren’t very nice and there really isn’t a decent explanation for why. She has her whole life to deal with unexplainable nonsense. I didn’t want that to happen today.

Perhaps I took this missing unicorn a little bit harder than I should have because it instantly took me back to my own first experience with people doing unexplainable, not-so-nice things.  I remembered being at an amusement park with my family and losing my beaded change purse filled with my spending money in a ball pit.  I remember thinking the same logic–that if I knew where I had lost it, I just had to go back to find it.  To me, there wasn’t another outcome.  Just like Miss M said, “if I know where I lost it, I just have to go back and get it!” Unfortunately my family and I didn’t find my change purse. Someone had stolen it.  I remember being around 7 years old and suspecting it was a group of teenagers.  Teenagers seemed like giants at that time.  Terrible, terrible giants.  I learned a harsh lesson on responsibility and humanity that day.  C’est la vie.

Miss M and I asked at the concessions stand if anyone had turned in a little, stuffed unicorn.  The young lady working there asked if it was the little, chubby white one with the pink hair that Miss M had been playing with at the counter earlier.  “Yes!” I replied both impressed and shocked by her attention to detail.  “No, it hasn’t turned up but I will have a look around as well and if we find it we will let you know.”

When we left, I decided that we would just call tomorrow to ask if it had been turned in.  There was no need to get into the alternative explanations for why Nova hadn’t been found.  But I definitely scanned every child and parent for Nova, hoping that a little one had picked it up and passed it off to a busy mom who hadn’t yet noticed it wasn’t theirs.  No such luck.  Miss M was disappointed but was a really great sport about it and asked if we could write it on the calendar so we remember to call tomorrow.  Music to my ‘calendar mom’ ears.  Yes, we can!

We got home and I drew the hottest, soapiest bath that my kids could tolerate to scrub the play place germs off of them.  While I’ve gotten better at tolerating those places and not avoiding them like the plague, I still will not let my kids on the furniture until they are freshly bathed.  Baby steps… ha!

Just as they got out of the tub, there was a knock at the door.  I prayed it wasn’t the Jehovah’s Witnesses who had just visited us the day before when 4 year old Mr. C was literally parading around the living room in a tin foil hat!

tin foil hatPerfect timing, or what? “We don’t need saving!  We are JUST FINE HERE!”  Awesome.

I opened the door to find my sister standing there.  That alone was the best thing ever.  While I have two sisters and the 3 of us are incredibly close, we physically, all live hours apart so this was quite the awesome surprise!  We don’t ever get to just show up on each other’s doorsteps without extensive planning (and driving!)  If you have siblings in town, drop in on them to chat, give a hug, share extra food, appreciate them… because you are truly BLESSED!  I’ve never felt the physical distance between me and this particular sister as much as when I opened Facebook a few days ago to see that she had just started to go “LIVE.”  Weird.  She really isn’t the type to use facebook LIVE which in a nutshell, live broadcasts audio and visual from your device to your social media network.  I saw her living room show up live with just an empty couch and Mamaroo in the frame and quickly realized that unless she was going to be making a grand entrance as her Facebook Live debut, that she doesn’t actually know she is on facebook live.  Yikes!  So I started repeatedly calling her but she wouldn’t answer… probably because she was on Facebook Live from her phone! Damn.  She was starting to get viewers tuning in to her unknown-to-her live broadcast.  So, I texted her hubby and he quickly shut it down.  We laughed about it afterwards because when she is on Facebook Live without knowing, she is literally singing nursery rhymes over and over again.  A total snoozefest.  It was exactly how I would imagine Mary Poppins’ ‘surprise’ facebook live would turn out.  While it was a nice play by her son, my beautiful 2 year old nephew Mr. N, it was also pretty scary and one of those times where I definitely wished I could just run over to her house before she walks in front of the screen naked or something.  Here’s hoping that never happens in this nut house!

Anyway, I digress… when my sister walked inside, she asked if Miss M was around.  I called for Miss M to come to the door.  Like me, she was excited to see Auntie standing there, as we thought they were on the highway heading home.  She was even more excited to see Auntie reach into her pocket and pull out NOVA!!!  My sister had returned to the play place when she realized that her 6 week old was missing one of her adorable, little pink boots.  While she didn’t find Baby N’s boot, she did find Miss M’s missing unicorn.  It was sitting next to a lady on the couch that we had been using earlier.  My sister was the weirdo who asked the lady if that was her unicorn and then happily ran out the door with it when she said that it wasn’t!  Super Auntie or what?

Miss M and Nova were happy to be reunited.  I was happy that I didn’t have to explain that sometimes people take things that aren’t theirs (and even happier that no one had taken this little toy! Perhaps there is hope for society afterall!)  And I’m heart-warmed knowing that while my daughter had the opportunity to be responsible for something of her own, she also learned that sometimes, even when you are really careful and super responsible that sometimes, in life, sh*t happens.  But when it happens, the people who love you will always be there for you, willing and ready to go the extra mile to help you fix it as best as they can, even without being asked.

This makes my heart smile. 😊❤️

2 thoughts on “Life Lessons from Nova the Unicorn: Learning to be Responsible

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