I'm back from a 6-day kidfree vacation that involved New Orleans, Cozumel, a cruise ship, and a dozen amazing bands. Needless to say, I'm rested. Getting away from the kids requires the logistics of a FEMA disaster-relief operation, but once you iron out dropoffs and diapers, the rest is smooth sailing. Of course you'll miss them, but living our old DINK life, even if just for a few days, was liberating. The best part is, when I got back, my patience meter for kid shenanigans was reset. Bring it on, refuse-to-get-in-my-car-seat!
But, like any time without your kids, you can't help but look around and see ... kids! And they're so cute when you're not the one in charge of them. We oohed and awwed our way through the airport, the hotel, and the cruise ship. And my attention kept drawing back to one family in particular: two parents, a brother, and a son in a wheelchair. The son was an indeterminable age, but he had the sense of wonder and excitement of a teenager. His face looked a bit older, but his frame was diminutive due to cerebral palsy. Come to find out, Korey is 27 and his health challenges stem from growth problems in the womb. Faced with a pregnancy where one twin was healthy and one stopped growing, his mother made the brave decision to take both twins out early in an attempt to save Korey, even though it meant Kyle's health could be jeopardized. Korey was born weighing less than 2 pounds. He has cerebral palsy and can't speak, communicating through a computer. Kyle thrived in the NICU and grew up without complications.
Not that I knew his story or even his name at the time. We referred to him on the cruise affectionately as Bubble Boy. Because everywhere he went a trail of bubbles followed him like a permanent Gymboree class. And, just like kids during bubble time at Gymboree, everyone around him immediately became ... joyful. Their faces lit up. They wanted to be a part of his world. And my husband and I couldn't stop thinking: Those parents rigged a bubble machine to his wheelchair. And not just any bubble machine, the most hardcore, badass million-bubble bubble machine money can buy. That's love, we thought.
As a parent, when you see a kid with a disability, you can't help thinking What if that was my child? What would I do? We worry our entire pregnancy that the baby inside is going to be okay. We're not even sure what the word okay means, maybe just a feeling that everything is going to be all right. We may even breathe a selfish sigh of relief that we don't have those kinds of hurdles in our child-raising, but for many of us there's also a tinge of jealousy, because the rewards of raising a child who is so happy and who is living beyond their developmental challenges are so great. I've heard from moms of kids with disabilities that it's the most rewarding thing that's ever happened to them.
And this was clearly the case for this family. Korey rode around the ship blaring music and blasting bubbles with a smile on his face. The other cruisegoers fell in love with him. Our 3000-member Facebook group had more posts about run-ins with Korey than they had about run-ins with Pat Monahan of Train, Michael Franti or any of the other artists that we paid to see. He was magical and he touched everyone in his wake. He attended almost every concert and came dressed to the nines each theme night.
But the pinnacle moment for me was at one of the last concerts on the cruise, when singer Michael Franti invited kids up on stage to dance during the last song. A row of 8-to-13 year olds were jamming, and all of a sudden from the far left side of the stage we hear a small thump as Korey is rolled onto the stage. His parents clamber up, and his father picks him up from under his arms and holds him while jumping up and down so Korey can experience dancing too. And they stay onstage for several joyous minutes until the concert ends.
I was floored. These parents care so damn much. I was ashamed of myself for being such a lazy mom in comparison. Here they are flying with, cruising with, running around with a child in a wheelchair, and not only that, helping him have the coolest wheelchair ever so when strangers see him, they think "How awesome!" and not "How sad." They sail to the (literal) ends of the earth so he can have the same experiences as the rest of us. I grumble when I lug my 3 year old onto the changing table, and here they are hauling an adult child onto a 4-foot stage so he can dance like everyone else. My eyes couldn't stay dry.
I realized that I need to step up my game. Sure, I'm tired, I'm worn out, but I need to reach deeper into that parental drive to nurture my kids to the fullest. Korey believes he can do anything--he just does it differently, and he's right. He didn't get that attitude sitting around at home feeling sorry for himself. But when you're like me and you have kids who don't have physical restraints, the path to a full life isn't as clear. Since they can already do everything easily, it's up to you to help them find their passions and lead them.
If you'd like to learn more about Korey and the charity his family started to help differently-abled people thrive in a social environment and enjoy concerts and sporting events, click here.
Or if you're looking for a cause to help out locally, Balanced Life Christian Center in Mount Vernon is sponsoring a mission to Nigeria and is seeking volunteers and donations of the household medical supplies listed in the poster below. If you would like to help out, reach out to Shella Gifford at 914-863-4456.
Thanks for reading this more serious post. Their story moved me and I hope it's moved you too. Now, on to lighter topics:
And join us for a BabyGotChat drinks night Tuesday, March 20 at City Perch in Dobbs Ferry! We're taking it to the river towns and taking advantage of ladies night drink specials. We'll be there between 8pm and 10pm, and we'd love to see you!
And don't forget it's (egg) hunting season! Click here for our list of local hunts and events.
Our Mommy & Me Meetup still meets most Mondays at Lil Chameleon. Join us this Monday between 10:30am and noon. $5 cash at the door or register in advance.
And mark your calendars for a FREE concert from Hoff-Barthelson Music School on Sunday, March 25 at 2pm. There will be music, light refreshments, and the chance to get up close and personal with the instruments. Click here or see below for more information.
That's it for this week! For our (almost always free) Event of the Day, follow us on Facebook or Instagram. And as always, check our website for events and our easy-to-navigate chart of every weekly kids library program in Westchester.
See you next time!