My son, Rowan, and I have been talking a lot about unicorns lately. He’s five years old, and since he was a baby, we’ve been telling him stories about our dog, Winslow. They started out simple—Winslow would smell muffins, and then he’d try to find them. He’d hear a strange sound, and he’d run off to investigate. The stories tuck Rowan in at night and fill him up when he’s feeling sad. They’re just one way we help him understand his world in very concrete, simple terms.
As he’s grown, the stories have too; not just in length, but in the cast of characters. There’s Rowantree and Star and Ralph the Dinosaur. There’sTreeton, Taco Steve, and we can’t forget Skillet Face the Dog. But his favorite lately has been Spirit the unicorn. Rowan asks for him every night now.
“One more story? Please, Dad? You didn’t do a Spirit one.”
Bob looks at me for help.
I want to hear about Spirit, too. I don’t want the quiet yet. “Please, Dad?” I repeat, smiling.
“Fine,” he says. “One more. Snuggle in. But seriously, you guys. This is the last one.”
And then we’re off to the Kingdom of the Valley of the Land of the Puppers where Spirit will vanquish the terrible and rescue everyone from uncertainty or hunger. Spirit, you see, is a unicorn who thinks the solution to any scenario is either a rainbow or sprinkles.
Winslow is sad? Rainbows!
Winslow is hungry? Sprinkles!
These stories are easy, and they’re fun. Dancing, twirling—Spirit dusts every scene with unicorn sparkles, and Rowan listens with glossy eyes. Spirit makes sense to him because he loves magical thinking—loves the gleaming power of possibility. He still looks at the world with wonder. For him, if something is wrong, if he’s sad or angry or lonely, it seems perfectly reasonable that someone might throw a cupcake at him.
The problem is…