The Braille Monitor January 2003
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Dividend for a Blind Mom
by Judy Jones
From the Editor: Judy Jones is president of the Pierce County Chapter of the NFB of Washington. She and her husband Chris are blind; their two daughters are sighted. Does this make their family life different from those of their neighbors? Not particularly. The strains and rewards are recognizable to everyone who has raised children. This is what Judy says:
Recently my daughters and I were traveling home by air. Aboard our flight was a blind man who seemed to have difficulty orienting himself to the cabin. My elder daughter, sitting next to me, observed this gentleman being taken to the rest room and returned to his seat. Once he had cleared our portion of the aisle, my sixteen‑year‑old leaned toward me and said, "Hey, Mom, thanks for being independent!"
I immediately got one of those warm mother‑glows. They are as rare as a quiet moment in the life of a busy mom, but one of the priceless fruits harvested from the practice of daily independence. I thanked her and said, "That really means a lot to me."
Being teens and occasionally a little self‑conscious, our girls have mentioned that they don't like me being so obvious. Obvious? At that age and stage, having a parent within a mile of where they are hanging out is obvious. Then add blindness to that, and mortification is hardly too strong a term for the reaction of most teens.
One time I offered to take our eldest to a teen event, but she said she'd rather have my husband go. "Mom, if you take me, you won't just chill; you'll start talking to other people. When I turn around, you'll be at some table helping out with something." I chuckled privately at that, because I like being active, talking to people, and helping out at school activities, and I'm glad she sees me in that role even if it is momentarily embarrassing. I realized that the important thing was to continue being Mom, stay involved but not intrusive.
When we go to shopping malls, sometimes we separate, do our shopping, and meet at a designated place. But there are also times when the girls want to accompany me. Then they want me to walk with them, not ahead or behind. At those times I agree to have one of them act as a sighted guide.
Sometimes I ask, "Do you want to shop separately or go with me?" Or I might ask, "Shall we get customer assistance, or do you want to handle this?" Or, if I'm shopping for something specific and want to take my time, I simply tell them I'm getting customer assistance, and they can either come with me or shop separately. Any way you slice it, even though they're free to decide which of the choices they want to take, I'm in charge of the shopping trip. The whole idea is this: they have choices and aren't forced into the role of being my guides.
My husband and I sometimes ask for our daughters' advice, opinion, or minor assistance because we need it. Families should be interdependent, and children should learn the virtues of helpfulness and kindness.
One of my sighted friends told me she always has her daughters select her clothes for her when they go shopping because she wants to be sure she is in style. My girls are also very quick to tell me what looks good.
Occasionally, when our girls have called attention to a spot on the carpet I didn't know about or helped touch up and finish painting a room we had started, my husband and I have expressed how much their help means to us. But it can be a tricky balancing act between asking for assistance in order to teach children the virtue of kindness and healthy interdependence on the one hand and unhealthy dependence and forced servitude on the other.
I don't know if the incident on the plane will stay with our daughter, but for me it was a milestone. I'm deeply thankful both daughters know that with proper training and opportunity blind people can lead productive lives. I can report that a few seconds of that mother-glow dividend can make the years of investing energy in talking our talk and, even more important, walking our walk worth all the effort.
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