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Power of the Mundane
It all started a few months ago, on a typical Thursday, arriving home feeling behind to start dinner & bath-time routine, per usual. I was unbuckling Nico from his carseat, going through the mental list of what I needed to do once I walked in the door, when he asked: “Mamá, where’s Jimmy Hendrix?”. He had recently been gifted a children’s book ‘The Story of Rock’ which depicted a whole bunch of artists from Tina Turner, to Bowie, to The Ramones, and more. For some reason Jimmy stuck.
Again: “Where’s Jimmy Hendrix?”
While I continued my daily battle with the stubborn carseat buckle, I casually responded: “Jimmy’s dead, mi amor,” eyes still down as I fussed with the big red button.
Nico: “What’s ‘dead’?”
Me: stopped cold in my tracks. Stood up straight. Looked into his eyes. “Oh, FUCK.” (internally…I think.)
So there, standing on the sidewalk, as I continued to fumble with the carseat straps, I found myself delivering some gibberish about the planet, the Universe, spirits, oneness, life, death, physical bodies, Mother Nature, and I don’t know what else. Did he get it? I mean, did I get it?
Me: “Do you understand, mi amor?” I ask, hoping with every ounce of me that he just says yes and moves on to the next random-toddler-topic as he does, so this conversation can end. I needed time to reflect on this, people dying felt big. ‘Please don’t ask me if I’m going to die, if you’re going to die,’ goes through my mind as I await his answer.
What feels like an hour later, we walk into the house.
I hadn’t really thought about this conversation yet, about how we’d introduce the [life-altering?] concept of death. So far, we had been conscious about not using certain language or actions: water guns were just water ‘sprays’, spider friends (which we have a lot of) were kindly invited to go outside ‘where they’d be happier’, and we asked flowers if they wanted to come home with us before picking them.
But I hadn’t realized it was time to go further. To talk about more. To get ahead of ideas and words which, if he didn’t hear from us at home, he would start to hear from others. Because before you know it your newborn is a twonager, a sponge with Pandora-level curiosity, and Jimmy Hendrix throws you a curveball.
Starting to explain death opened the door to thinking about how we’d introduce other concepts like religion. How we’d actually talk about it, beyond me filling his room with angel trinkets and crystals. Beyond gazing at the moon and stars. How would we nurture beliefs as a family? Now, that’s a bigger cookie for another time, but what was very clear to us was that we wanted our kids to embody love, kindness, and appreciation - irrespective of where it came from.
Since that day we added a gratitude practice to our bedtime ritual with Nico, the last step before closing eyes.
“Dear God, Dear Universe…” (purposely giving options here) “...today I’m grateful for…”
I would go first and I would also elaborate on the reason why to help paint a picture for him, like “for my strong body that was able to do yoga today”, “for you and Mika who I love so much”.
Then it became his turn. He started looking around the room and giving responses like: my sippy cup, my lamp, my broom… but hey, a start right? The first time he actually named a friend I couldn’t help but jump up and excitedly ask “What does he have that makes him a good friend?” Here I was, trying to be deep, wanting to know what traits my son valued in a friend, to which he responded “he has two vacuums”. Ahhh, ok. (Yep, Nico’s obsessed with cleaning and I just hope it sticks.)
But after weeks of doing this, something happened. Although he started broadening his responses, I began running out of ‘meaningful’ things to say, of ‘lessons’ I wanted to impart. It had been a long time since I’d kept a gratitude journal and I forgot how challenging it could become if you got too in your head about it. I had checked off the boxes of all the obvious things to say - family, health, love, friendships, food, new experiences, opportunity - and variations I could think of. The list of ‘big ticket’ items had seemed to run out and I was finding it hard to say new things each night.
But THIS is where the magic lay, after the bigness. This is where we cross the chasm and start noticing the small things, taking in their beauty too. So like Nico, I started simply looking around, and looking closer. I started going about my day consciously choosing something that I would say at night in front of Nico. ‘Thanks for my morning coffee. Thanks for the flowers outside our door.’
Over time, this actually became my best lesson in being present. I was no longer purposely searching, I was simply more and more aware of my surroundings, of the random things that brought a smile to my face, and allowing myself a pause to take it in. ‘Thanks for cozy socks. Thanks for Facetime. Thanks for the mural in the alley. Thanks for the bumpy pothole-filled alley itself that helps me put my baby to sleep. Thanks for the barista who knows my name. Thanks for the cars that actually stopped so I could cross the street with the stroller. Thanks for the puddles on the sidewalks that Nico splashed in. Thanks for hot showers. Thanks for the smell of incense.’
The tables turned and I stopped trying to be deep for Nico. Instead, learning to appreciate the seemingly mundane things became even more powerful.
True love for sippy cups, lamps, and brooms is something I’m bringing with me into 2023.
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