I was wrong. About a robotic cat. I declare this happily and with feelings of gratitude. I’d shout it from the rooftops if I could–because of what it means. Here’s the scoop.
First, a little context: I’m wrong often. Wrong about big things, small things, meaningless things, and meaningful things–far more often than I’d like to admit. But that’s life. As Mom always told me: “Do your best to get it right, own up to it when you’re not and be darn sure to learn from it.”
Most of the time, being wrong stinks. Soaking in a tub of regret and disappointment is never fun. Healthy and valuable, yes, but fun? No. I’ve learned over time that it feels good, cleansing even, to own up to it when you’re incorrect. But being wrong still stinks. Most of the time.
Yet there are those few occasions when you know you were wrong but it works out. More than works out, your inability to get it right actually makes things (er life) better. Similar to a happy accident, I think of these instances as episodes of happy incorrectness (my word, not Webster’s).
Live Free Or Die??
The best (and biggest) example of this for me was 6 years ago when Lindsay and I moved our family from the suburbs of Boston to southern New Hampshire. Until then, we’d spent our entire life together in or around Boston. Our kids were born there. We had friends and family all around. The commute was nice.
But our family had grown (again) and we needed more space. Somewhere along the way, we got the bright idea to move further north. While we were only moving 40 miles, it was across state lines and might as well have been a world away. Or so it felt at the time.
The night before we closed on our new house, I had a severe case of cold feet and was considering bagging the whole thing. I came off the ledge on that one and then thought we’d just do it and move back in a couple of years.
Long story short, that move was the best thing we could have done for our family. Six years later, we can’t imagine raising our family anywhere else and our roots are firmly entrenched beneath us. Looking back, it’s an understatement to say I’m glad I was wrong.
Support group? Me? Nah.
A smaller scale example (but in lots of ways just as life changing) is my personal relationship with the concept of support groups. When Mom was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, her neurologist recommended some great resources–a couple of which were support groups.
I laughed at the notion (to myself) and thought nah, I got this. I wound up checking a couple out–literally thinking I’d check the box to get Lindsay and Mom’s doctor off my back–but that didn’t happen.
What happened was I felt immediate comfort. I got practical tips from time to time but the game changer I took from the support groups was comfort in numbers. And comfort in stories. I had drastically underestimated, if not dismissed entirely, the positive impact of being surrounded by others with similar challenges could and would have on me. The impact these groups have had on my life is impossible to measure.
Needless to say, I’m thankful to have been wrong about support groups.
But a robotic cat?
A robotic cat, of all things, is the subject of my latest episode of happy incorrectness. The chorus of voices touting the benefits of robotic pets in dementia care has become louder in recent years. Take for example, this article on Being Patient (a super helpful website by the way) from earlier this year.
I also saw a video on the use of these pets in an assisted living community last year and while I found the story uplifting, I was out on getting a robotic cat.
Here’s a quick inventory of my reasoning, without going into too much detail:
- We have a dog (Maggie), and while Steve has bonded with her, the Steve/Maggie relationship hasn’t been a big difference maker
- They seemed like glorified stuffed animals–how will that benefit anyone?
- The girls had talking dolls when they were young and I still have vivid flashbacks of walking into a room to turn a light on and being startled by them.
- If a real dog doesn’t increase his engagement and make him happy, how will a robotic cat do that?
- Not to mention, something about it almost felt dishonest and demeaning
I was totally out on the concept for all the reasons on the punch list above–until Lindsay got one for Steve on a whim.
Last Tuesday I pulled into our garage tired and hungry from a long day. As I walked from the car to the door, I noticed the box. A picture of a (real looking, I must say) cat and Joy For All printed on the sides.
Turns out Lindsay ordered it spur of the moment one day as she was thinking about how her dad always loved cats but we can’t have one in the house due to allergies. Had we debated the purchase, I would have most certainly voted no. Let’s just say I’m glad we didn’t. Even if we had, chances are high I would have lost that debate (Lindsay is good) but I shudder to think that I could have stood in the way of what was to come.
I picked up the box and continued to the door thinking something along the lines of I’ll be taking this back to the post office tomorrow. Little did I know my skepticism of the robotic cat would soon be be forever vanquished.
Because the minute we opened the box, Steve gravitated to the cat. He extended his arm to pet it, made a cat call sound naturally as only cat lovers do, and better yet his eyes were locked on this new member of the household. If it seems like a little thing, it was. With a big, borderline priceless, impact.
In seconds, the cat had done what we spend all day every day trying to do–get Steve engaged, smiling, interacting. It was an absolutely wonderful sight to watch Steve engage with his new buddy. I was suddenly and totally in on robotic pets.
Happy to be wrong in this case
It was decided we’d call our new feline family member ‘Frisky’, as that was the name of Steve’s favorite cat. And oh how I was wrong about Frisky, for so many reasons.
First off, a key part of my premise was we already have a dog. Fine, but we didn’t have a cat. And if I was thinking about Steve in his entirety as a person, I would have been reminded of his fondness for cats. My thinking was flawed because it wasn’t centered wholly on Steve. I was wrong but I’ll do my best not to make that mistake again.
Then there was my thinking of how will a stuffed animal help Steve? It took under a minute for this premise to be utterly debunked. I was impressed with how real Frisky looked and felt. His fur felt authentic to me and Frisky looked real. While some of Frisky’s sounds and movements still seem robotic to me, they don’t seem so to Steve. And that’s what matters.
The enjoyment Steve received from Frisky was instantly palpable. His engagement told me so–and it was beautiful. It’s only been a week, but our new robotic cat has already given us countless little moments that we’ll hold onto for a long time to come.
An important reminder
Our new robotic cat has become a symbol of a critically important reminder for me as a caregiver. As a human too. In caregiving, it’s not my opinion on something that counts.
It’s what that something means to Mom or to Steve that matters. Will they enjoy it or will they not? I need to start there and not with my preconceived notions or opinions–and always remember, and at times force myself, to embrace their reality.
Frisky is a reminder for me that being purely open minded takes work. And if I’m not putting in that work, then I’m not doing my job. Open mindedness is a key to fulfillment. Steve’s, Mom’s, my own, Lindsay’s.
That’s why I’m so glad I was wrong about Frisky the robotic cat.
Have you tried one yet?
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