This morning, my husband and I took our three-year-old son Desmond, to the Community Center indoor, play park. When we first arrived at the play park, I told my husband to head into the gymnasium with our son, while Chiffon, my guide dog, and I paid at the counter. As Chiffon and I approached the gymnasium, we were surprised to find that daddy and Desmond, were standing just inside the door. I asked why Desmond, was not playing. My husband responded by saying, “he wanted to wait for you, mommy!” I smiled and took Desmond’s hand. Little did I realize this was just the beginning of his uncertainty.
We did our normal process of finding a place on the bleachers, where I could tuck Chiffon, safely away from the small probing hands that are so interested in her. As I took my seat on the bleachers like normal, Desmond just stood in front of us. My husband asked Desmond, “are you going to play?” Desmond responded, “no.” I asked him why he wasn’t going to play with the other children? He responded by saying, “will you come with me mommy?”
I took Desmond’s hand and left Chiffon, safely on the bleachers with my husband. As we headed out I explained to Desmond, I did not have a cane or a guide dog, so he needed to help me not run into anything. As we began to cross the gymnasium, I ran into a little boy, or so I think a little boy. I was shocked and grabbed the little boy before he hit the ground. I felt a mixture of embarrassment, shock, and anger. What was most disturbing to me, was I wasn’t sure what I was so upset about. You wouldn’t think this would be such a big deal, right? But, when it’s an unsuspecting toddler not knowing that I can’t see him, I feel a lot of emotions regarding my blindness. I didn’t feel hindered in parenting my own child, but what I wasn’t happy with was that I was unable to keep other toddlers around me safe while playing my toddler.
Many times the frustration that comes from being a blind parent has come from the lack of communication. During the toddler/preschool years, I have found that interaction between one preschooler and one toddler is often nonverbal. This has presented a problem for me, wondering what is going on? Sometimes there’s a lot said in a smile, or a soft glance between two preschoolers. But, when the mommy is blind those unspoken nonverbal communications are lost. Sometimes I wonder, am I failing my children in some small way when I don’t respond to the nonverbal communication? How often have I heard other parents say, “oh that child seems very nice, look he is smiling at you, I think he wants to be your friend.”
The truth of the matter is no matter how you spin the facts; you do lose some things when you’re blind. Yes, you can compensate in other areas and believe me my kids are not lacking in anyway shape or form, but we’re speaking about how I feel here and the truth is sometimes I feel as though there are things that I miss. When I begin to feel the anger inside that I can’t participate in the way that I perceive other parents who are sighted participate in their kids lives, I take a step back and I listen.
Often times I hear other parents just sitting on the bleacher having social time, while I am down on the ground on a mat playing with my toddler. Or the other times that I am willing to try to play basketball not knowing if that ball is going to hit me in the face. That anger that I had previously felt now turns into bravery, as I unknowingly wait for that ball to balance anywhere in front of me, but hopefully not in the face. I am a confident, dedicated, devoted mother to my children. If they need to play on the floor, I’m there! If they need me to push them through a gymnasium crowded with other little children on some sort of bubble car or trike, I’m there!
It’s these times that I stress about deep inside, as my hands become sweaty and my mouth waters, while I wonder if I’m going to push my child into another child. Sometimes those are the risks that I take, to hear the gleeful smile, when you know your child’s head has just been thrown back, the widest smile covers their face and the deepest belly giggle you’ve ever heard comes from them as they say, “faster mommy!”
Nothing can stop a blind mommy when she hears all of those things as she fully engages in play time with her preschooler. I think it’s a mixed bag sometimes when you are a blind parent, at least it is for me. I’m happy to report, as the morning progressed, Desmond’s insecurities melted away and he began to play with other children and with the toys without mommy!