I know I keep writing about it, but wow, March was HARD.
I cried more than I’d cried in months, and I had moments when I wasn’t sure if I was going to be okay in the long-term. I had terrible anxiety at night and walked around like a bit of a zombie during the day.
But I convinced myself that my kids didn’t really notice. Or if they did, they didn’t care that much. They still had school and their friends and my dad. So what if their mom was a little bit off?
Claire asked how I was doing a few times, and I was honest that I was sad about Shawn. Austin just held my hand when I read to him, which he had mostly stopped doing a few months prior. But Tommy was the same – demanding and adorable, seemingly unaware of my moods.
One night, Tommy came in my room just before bedtime. I had been crying, and I wiped away my tears. “Hi baby,” I said to him.
“Guess what I found?” he asked me.
“It’s my new stuffed animal!” he said, and then he pulled out this hideous-looking multi-colored stuffed parrot.
“What IS that thing?” I asked.
He studied the stuffed animal for a moment. Clearly, he didn’t know what kind of animal it was.
“It’s my RAINBOW CHICKEN!” he said proudly.
Well, I’m not sure what got into me in that moment, but I started laughing. I could not stop. How in the world did he think to call his stuffed animal “Rainbow Chicken”? I know that this may not strike you as hilarious, but trust me, I found it to be one of the funniest things I’d heard in weeks. I laughed so hard that tears came out of my eyes. Tommy had no idea why what he’d said was funny, but he got a huge smile on his face.
“Rainbow Chicken!” he said again, and then we both laughed.
He repeated this a half-dozen times, laughing each time he said “Rainbow Chicken!” He kept looking at me to see if I was laughing, and since I was, it was contagious.
Austin came in. “This is my Rainbow Chicken!” Tommy said and laughed, because that’s what we were doing every time he said “Rainbow Chicken.”
Austin laughed. “Tommy, that’s a parrot,” he said. But he was smiling and he was looking at me. Austin wasn’t sure why I was laughing, but I saw in his eyes a flicker of joy. He knew one thing at that moment: Mom was happy.
Claire heard all of us and came in too. I told her about Rainbow Chicken and how funny we thought it was and after a while she was laughing too.
I let them all pile on my bed that night and we read stories and then watched stupid things on the iPad until way too late. At one point, I asked Tommy, “what do you like so much about Rainbow Chicken?”
“He makes people laugh,” he said. “If you are sad, you can just hold Rainbow Chicken and say ‘Rainbow Chicken’ and then you are happy!”
Well, that’s basically what had happened, so hey, it was a logical conclusion.
“When do you think someone might need Rainbow Chicken?” I asked him.
He thought about this for a moment. “Maybe if your Dad dies?” he said.
“Well, yes,” I said, “though even if you have a Rainbow Chicken, someone whose dad died would probably still be sad.”
He looked at me and really studied my expression. He was trying to make sense of this world – sense of a world that ripped his father from him before he was potty-trained.
“Well,” he said, “Rainbow Chicken made you feel better. So next time you are sad, I’m going to say, ‘Rainbow Chicken!'”
I smiled at him. “Okay, baby,” I said, “you can do that.”
That night, just before he fell asleep, he half-opened his eyes and sleepily said to me, “Rainbow Chicken, mama.”
I smiled and looked at his sweet face. He was clutching Rainbow Chicken to his chest. I watched his breathing slow and his face relax as he drifted off to sleep.
My baby boy. He’s my Rainbow Chicken.