• Laura Michels

What I Learned From a Four Year Old and Her Unicorn

I was tucking my four year old niece into bed and I noticed her hand painted unicorn was missing its horn. I asked her what happened, thinking she may have swung a baby doll and knocked it down. She shared that she was angry and didn’t know what to do, so she slammed her door, hopped on her bed and grabbed the unicorn’s horn and snapped it clean off. She said this with a bit of a pout on her face. I could see the remorse she had for taking her anger out on the unicorn she had painted with sparkles and rainbows.

I told her that I understand that kind of anger, when you don’t know where to send it, but it feels better to take it out on something versus keeping it in. Her face softened as she heard me, her Auntie, understand her discomfort. I told her how I used to throw my American Girl Doll, Samantha. I stood up and pretended to swing an invisible doll around my head and toss it at the headboard. “BOOM!” I shouted. Her eyes lit up as she covered her mouth and giggled.

She has a doll orphanage in her room, so the idea of a doll being tossed was out of this world to her. She has at least 9 baby dolls in their individual beds, with blankets and all. She wouldn’t dare swing one of those babies by the legs, but the unicorn wasn’t granted such luck.

I told her I could fix it with some super glue, and I would return it back to her. She excitedly jumped up and down on her bed, clapping her hands, happy to hear she hadn’t completely ruined her unicorn. Perhaps hearing and now knowing that I, too, lose my temper and break things in rage gave her some relief.

I learned quite a bit from that interaction. I know we grow in our physical bodies and minds. But a part of me is still able to access that enraged little girl, overwhelmed with emotion, and not knowing what to do with it. I often felt helpless, defenseless, and alone in my anger. I had never seen someone react the way I did. I felt it was wrong, but I couldn’t help it. I was beyond consoling and needed to do some physical damage on something that wouldn’t hurt me back.

My niece taught me something that night: no matter the age, position, awareness or mental state of a person, there is something to be learned from them about myself. It isn’t always about the smartest or most talented in the room, but maybe the most valuable insight comes from the one that is willing to be honest and open. I learned that she and I are not all that different. We share the role of being the youngest of strong willed, smart siblings. Both of us having to fight to be heard and seen. Both having a fire that feels uncomfortable at times and unyielding at its peak. She may be four and I may be thirty-three, but we are not so far apart after all.

The next person I think is too young to help me, or too old to know what I’m talking about, I hope I can take a second glance and remember that every person has something to teach me, something that will probably not appear obvious from a distance, but can offer great insight into myself if I pay close enough attention.

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