Since I still have three children at home heading back to school this year that means we are going to hit our local Target and the mall! My guide dog Chiffon, my two youngest boys with their oldest sister Alina, and I all hit the mall to do the back-to-school shopping. My oldest son, Colin, wants to shop separately from his two youngest brothers who are five and 11, so this means I have a mommy date Colin who is almost 16 and then take the boys with their oldest sister Alina who is 22 to the mall.
When I did my first back to school shopping trip, I did not realize how many people stopped to stare. Why they stare I don’t know. Colin has had many years of this phenomenon of people staring at us. I do recall that when we hit Old Navy, he mentioned to me that there was a shopper that was staring at us. I always respond in the same manner, by asking, “what are they staring at?” And, my kids always respond the same, saying, “I have no idea.” We usually just move on with our day and let it all go.
However, when I hit the mall with my two youngest boys and my daughter, who helped describe the clothing to me and to oversee the prices of the items that the boys desired, it was obvious that we were the center of attention once again. I would like to think it’s because my children are adorable, or perhaps it’s because my guide dog Chiffon is so beautiful. Whatever the reason is, it is common place to have people stop and stare at us as we navigate stores and make our purchases.
I wonder sometimes if people, think that my kids are helping me out, when they hear me ask my kids things, such as “how much is that?” And as my youngest is just learning prices, he will usually give me the numbers without putting it into a dollar figure. A lady commented, “oh that’s so nice that he’s helping you,” but really he was helping himself: he had a price range that he needed to stick with and he was learning whether the dollar value was below or above his limit. So, this is the dialogue that we usually have when we are shopping. My kids are amazing readers, and super shoppers!
I think one of the benefits of having a blind mom is that reading. expands their options. For example, if they want a certain cereal, they are more likely to get the particular brand that they want if they can read the box to find the one they are looking for. In this shopping adventure my boys were experiencing the reinforcement of the concept of just how far a dollar can stretch. Additionally, they have learned what a good value is. I don’t see any harm in teaching my kids economics. Plain and simple, these are economics. However, mini-onlookers, wonder “how nice it is that those kids are helping that blind lady,” and I just shake my head. When it comes to back-to-school shopping, my kids look forward to it: they have just as much of a say in what they’re going to put on their bodies, carry on their backs, and write with while they’re in school. While I could go on my own and do all the shopping by myself and fill their drawers, closets, and backpacks with school supplies, I think it is a valuable outing to have them choose for themselves and to understand how much things really cost. I believe that being a blind parent has many benefits and blessings: one blessing I personally have benefited from is embracing patience.
I am thankful every day that my children are early readers. I am also thankful that they seem to understand the art of living life with a grateful heart. Their cohorts may not even be ready to grasp the concept at their age. As for the onlookers, hopefully one day they will look, smile, and look away. One day I hope that they will not stop shopping to stare hard, stop their conversations, all to watch a family shop with a blind parent.
In the end, whether you are blind or sighted, back-to-school shopping is exhausting for both parents and kids alike.