Future Reflections                                                                                                      Fall 2001

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My Outlook as a Dad of a Blind Child

by Mark McClain

Reprinted from Advocacy In Action, the newsletter of the Ohio NFB Parents Division.

Mark McClain and daughter, Macy, explore the stuffed animals at a Sensory Safari display.
Mark McClain and daughter, Macy, explore the stuffed animals at a Sensory Safari display.

When we found out that Macy was blind, my first thought was “Oh my God, what in the world will she ever do! What a pathetic life she will lead, and we will be saddled with her till the day we die.” This wasn’t what I envisioned in becoming a parent.

At first, my wife Crystal dealt with the education requirements, early intervention, reading about blindness, issues concerning the legal requirements, and so forth. I really didn’t start helping with the blindness issues until after I attended my first National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Convention in Dallas in 1993. I quickly learned that there is so much information available to help parents. Unfortunately, that is also part of the problem; you get overwhelmed and start to feel “where do I start now?” Luckily I had a wife who found the NFB. We soon discovered that you learn a lot by just observing blind adults and talking to them to learn information. Blind adults in the NFB have also pointed us in the right direction regarding attitudes; we now believe that Macy can do whatever she wants to do. We not only believe that philosophy, we preach it and try to live it as well. Macy’s sighted twin sister, Madison, is our measuring stick to monitor her performance to her sighted peers at this young age.

It hasn’t been that long ago that I was teaching Macy how to ride her bike with training wheels. Madison was able to do it, so come hell or high water, Macy was going to ride her bike, too! Unfortunately she didn’t pick it up nearly as fast as Madison, but finally after yelling, soul searching, and use of duct tape, she rode her bike. She didn’t like this experience because when she began to tip over she couldn’t catch herself since her sadistic father had duct-taped her feet to the bike pedals. But she did learn, and the duct tape came off. Now she has a blast!

Earlier I stated my fear that we would be saddled with our “poor helpless blind daughter” for the rest of our lives; but now Macy operates under the new McClain program entitled “Eighteen and out.” When she graduates from high school she is out of the house without a choice – college! Good Luck and see you later – maybe we’ll help pay for school (just kidding – about the “pay for school” part, that is)!

I am certainly not saying that Macy can learn everything as fast as her sighted sister, but with a lot of repetition and some creativity, she can do it. We as parents need patience, patience, patience. When Macy accomplishes the task, the sweet reward is knowing that all the hard work was worth it.

I am not a card-carrying fanatic about organizations, but I will certainly say that I have learned a lot from the NFB. I would never have had these lofty goals had it not been for this organization. I am willing to take risks with her – riding her bike, playing teeball, jumping on the trampoline, helping around the house, and so forth. Anybody who knows me, absolutely knows that I don’t baby her. Our neighbors probably think that we are crazy parents, since we expect so much from her. I now believe that Macy is capable of competing with her sighted peers, and I intend to do my part as her Dad to see that she lives up to that expectation.

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