For Eric’s birthday, I got us tickets to see Jay Shetty speak at the Beacon Theater. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Jay Shetty is a well-known author, speaker, podcaster and life coach. I refer to him as a “social media monk.” Eric doesn’t so much care for this title, as he takes the teachings of Jay Shetty very seriously, whereas I see him more as a zen but business savvy dude who says fun, catchy meme-worthy shit like this:
Eric discovered him on the Calm app, a guided meditation app he uses every night before bed. As a former monk, Jay has a lot of experience in calming the mind, and Eric has learned a lot from his teachings on self care, relationships, love, and life in general.
So we went to see him speak, which was cool (if not exactly what we anticipated– we were expecting a super-inspiring Ted Talk, we got….a sort of bizarre variety show?). But Jay closed the night with a really lovely guided meditation.
He asked the audience to close their eyes and think up a moment of profound love in our lives. Whatever popped into our minds at the mention of this term, “profound love,” was perfectly fine. My personal interpretation of this instruction was to conjure up my earliest memory of profound love, which for me, undeniably, takes place at my childhood sleepaway camp, Robindel.
I pictured me and my best camp friends, age 15, at “Sing”– one of the last nights of camp during our final summer as campers. It’s an incredibly emotional night. I thought about how we all held each other tightly and sobbed, knowing that our magical days at camp were coming to an end for good, but also feeling eternally grateful for having formed these sister-type friendships that we knew would last a lifetime (and thus far have!). I remember that as the first moment of ever feeling a palpable ache in my heart because I just loved these people so much, and cherished every moment I got to spend with them.
Later, in the car driving home, Eric asked me about my profound love moment.
Me: “Being with my camp friends on one of the last nights of camp.”
Eric: “Huh. Interesting.”
Me: “Why, what was your profound love moment?”
Eric: “Watching you, my beautiful wife, dancing with our beautiful children in the kitchen, and thinking how grateful I am to have created this amazing family and life with you.”
When COVID quarantine first started, Nora was only 18 months old, and, given concerns about preexisting conditions in our family, we stayed extremely isolated for the next 1.5 years. So basically, Nora saw no one. Ever.
I for one reveled in couch life, fully embracing hibernation like the marmot I’m certain god intended me to be, but I worried about Nora’s lack of socialization and zero exposure to different types of people. Or, you know, ANY people. She started talking to our living room electrical outlet because I guess it sort of has a face.
I became concerned.
It was very important to me that Nora have SOME type of exposure to people who were not in our family (and who were not a wall socket), as well as an understanding that people come in all types of shapes, sizes, colors, ages, abilities, etc– and that we should respect and celebrate those differences. Her babysitter at the time, Sesame Street, was doing an ok job teaching these concepts, but I yearned for her to have some off-screen experiences that would build her social intelligence.
Cue my brilliant idea to order her a slew of multicultural dolls. Nora was in a major dramatic play phase, so I thought it would be great to get her dolls of mixed races, ethnicities, ages, genders, and abilities, thereby normalizing cultural variation for her sheltered, isolated, impressionable soul.
It warmed my heart when her very favorite toy became this basketball-playing young man using a wheelchair.
We had many discussions about disabilities, and I felt proud that she had an understanding of why people might need accommodations or certain tools to help them live their lives comfortably and to the fullest. I felt relieved that once quarantine life was over and we DID go out into the world where Nora would encounter all different types of people, she wouldn’t be confused (or, worse– RUDE) about it. She wouldn’t stare, or point, or doing anything else to make someone feel uncomfortable or marginalized. She would understand and appreciate that we are all unique, and that that is a beautiful thing.
Honestly, I awarded myself alllllll the mom points.
Fast forward a year, when I took Nora into a store for the first time in essentially forever. She was about 3 years old. As we were waiting on a long line at the Walgreen’s pharmacy to pick up my prescription, a kind-looking woman came up behind us. She was in a wheelchair. She smiled at Nora.
Woman: “Hello, little girl, aren’t you cute!”
Nora (screaming, inexplicably, at a rave-level decibel):
“YOU’RE IN A WHEELCHAIR!!”
The entire population of the store– staff, customers, emotional support animals– turned to look at us.
Nora took that as her cue to continue.
“MOM DO YOU SEE THIS LADY IS IN A REAL-LIFE WHEELCHAIR???!!!!”
Me (to the woman, mortified and bead-sweating): “I’m so sorry– it’s just, her favorite doll uses a wheelchair, and I guess she’s really excited to see one in person. We don’t get out much…”
“It’s ok,” the woman replied, while somehow, bless her heart, still smiling at Nora.
I thanked her for her understanding.
“YOU LOVE TO PLAY BASKETBALL BECAUSE YOU’RE IN A WHEELCHAIR!!”
She stopped smiling.
So if anyone is looking for some mom points, I forfeited mine and left them over there at the Westport Walgreens. Said points are waiting to be claimed by a mother whose child would have done literally anything other than what my child did that day. So if that’s you, congrats, go ahead and collect.
Oh and please pick up my prescription from 2021. I ran away and can never return.
At the kiddie gym this morning, Nora was being particularly social and adorable, walking up to kids and giving high fives, sharing her blocks, hugging all the nannies, and giggling at everything. I sat in the corner with a random dad, both of us watching her make her rounds, when the dad turned to me:
Random Dad: “Ok, so I have to know– what’s your secret?!”
Me (laughing): “Honestly, I don’t have one! I don’t know how she got this amazing, friendly, adorable personality. It’s certainly not from me! She takes after my husband more, I think. He’s very outgoing. But I’ll take some credit because she’s with me most of the day, so I guess I must be doing something right?”
Random Dad: “Oh. I meant how’d you get that coffee in here? They never let me bring mine in.”
Rushing to kiddie class this morning, I’m pushing Nora’s stroller down the street when I get stuck behind the world’s slowest stroller-pushing woman on the world’s narrowest sidewalk. At one point, thank god, the sidewalk widens, and so I take this opportunity to speed up and bypass the woman and her stroller. I guess she didn’t appreciate this maneuver, as she then yelled, “Excuse me– don’t think you’re better than me just because you have a bigger, fancier stroller!”
Other Mom (to me): “Well that was a fun class!”
Me: “I know, I agree! And I’m so glad that [your kid] and Nora are really becoming friends now.”
Other Mom: “Me too! And speaking of, I think it’s time we actually learn each other’s names!”
Me: “Oh! Ha, yes, we should– I’m Emily.”
Other Mom: “Nice to ACTUALLY meet you! I’m Cheryl.”
I fucking know, Cheryl. That’s why I’ve greeted you with “Good morning Cheryl!” every day for the past 3 months.
A woman at the playground is doing her best at disciplining, but is clearly struggling…
Woman: “Now, Sophie, I’m going to ask you again– was that a smart strategy?”
Sophie: (blank stare)
Woman: “We’ve talked about this before. And what did I tell you?”
Sophie: (blank stare)
Woman: “Come on, I know you remember. What did I tell you about making smart choices?”
Sophie: (looks away)
Woman: “Sophie! I’m talking to you. And we’re not going anywhere until you answer me.”
Me: “Um, sorry– I don’t mean to intrude but I don’t think she’s going to answer….”
Woman: “Oh trust me, she will. She’s just thinking about her actions. When she’s ready, she’ll respond. Right Sophie?”
Sophie: (looks at ground)
Me: “Ok…I guess what do I know? Good luck!”
Woman: “Thank you. Now, Sophie– I’m still waiting. What did we talk about yesterday? What would be a smarter strategy than the one you chose?”