Future Reflections Convention Report 2010
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by Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway
From the Editor: Convention is about many things--exchanging information, sharing resources, and strengthening a positive philosophy about blindness. It is also about building friendships, as Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway can attest.
Over the past couple of years, Kendra Holloway of Georgia and Lindsay Adair of Texas have had several phone conversations. Both girls are eight years old. Their conversations tend to go something like this:
Kendra: What noisy toys do you have?
Lindsay: I have a Jibber Jabber doll and some noisy books with buttons and some stuffed animals that make noise when you squeeze them.
Kendra: Lindsay, are you blind?
Lindsay: Yes. Are you?
Kendra: Yes. So, what other noisy toys do you have?
Lindsay is the daughter of NOPBC President Laura Weber. Laura and I first met at an NOPBC board meeting in 2008. We found it interesting how many things our daughters, both in kindergarten at the time, had in common. Both blind from birth, Kendra and Lindsay shared an aversion to certain noises when they were younger. As they got older, both of them were intensely interested in learning about the family tree of each and every person they met. The girls are known for their strong (some might say stubborn and bossy) personalities. Laura and I joked that if they ever met in person, it would be like a clash between Godzilla and Mothra.
Although Lindsay had previously attended two NFB conventions and Kendra had attended six, the girls had never met. As we made our plans for the 2010 NFB convention in Dallas, I think Laura and I were even more excited about the girls meeting than they were themselves. Kendra and Lindsay met for the first time at Kids' Camp on the day of the NOPBC seminar. There was no initial shyness at all. They hugged and sat down together at a table. Plans were quickly made for trips to the pool and back and forth visits between their hotel rooms. Lindsay brought a small trampoline to the hotel and Kendra brought every other toy (and yes, both families drove to the convention to accommodate the toy needs). Each of the girls owns a Victor Reader Stream and they had a great time one night comparing their tastes in music and books. The Junie B. Jones books got the thumbs up from both girls, as did an assortment of jokes. Hearing two eight-year-olds exchange jokes is very amusing, no matter how funny the jokes themselves are.
Laura and I recognize how important it is for our daughters to grow up with friends who are blind, as well as friends who are sighted. Given the small numbers of blind children, finding blind friends can be a challenge.
The importance of having blind friends to talk to was emphasized to me on Kendra's eighth birthday. Although she had a great time at her party, Kendra seemed down all weekend. She didn't want to blow out her candles or make a wish at the party. That night she told us that her birthday wish was that she could see. I felt as if someone had plunged a knife into my heart. There really is no good answer when your child tells you something like that. Although I can try my best to be supportive, I can never really understand what she's feeling when it comes to being blind. As she gets older, I am happy that she will have friends like Lindsay to talk to about those painful feelings as well as more positive topics.
Lindsay recently told Laura that she'd met a new girl at recess. The girl told Lindsay that the kids at school were sad that she was blind because she couldn't see beautiful things. Lindsay told her mother that she said, "Well, me and my mom aren't sad I'm blind." They talked about it for a while, and then Lindsay said, "I'll bet if the kids at school could come to a convention, they'd think that being blind is pretty fun." Statements like that really show the value of having blind friends and being a part of the NFB.
In the same way that Kendra and Lindsay share their experiences, Laura and I do as well. As most people reading this article know, there are some challenges unique to raising a blind child. It's wonderful to have a friend to vent to about various issues that have come up with the school system, or to have someone who understands the frustration of trying to do homework with your child in Braille (especially when your child's knowledge of Braille surpasses your own). We've talked about the social skills our girls possess, sports and other activities they enjoy, and our hopes and dreams for their futures. Our involvement with the NOPBC and the NFB has enhanced our lives significantly. It has given our daughters the chance to make lifelong friends and given us the opportunity to find the support and friendship of other parents. Kendra and Lindsay are already looking forward to the next NFB convention. Look out, Orlando!
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