It’s Mother’s Day in the UK so I’d like to wish all you wonderful Mums, blind snd sighted, a very Happy Mother’s Day!
As a visually impaired Mum, I have occasionally been asked questions about how my disability might affect my children. Having given this some thought, I believe having a VI mum can be great for a child. Now, some might call it optimism, but I’m going to share how I think my blindness is having a positive impact on my kids and how I hope it could set them up for the future. This is just me talking about my family and other VI mums are likely to have thier own opinions on this. My aim is to create a fun, somewhat lighthearted, positive read for Mother’s Day, (hence the geeky acrostic format!). I hope you enjoy.
H is for Humour Being blind requires a good sense of humour, that’s for sure! When things don’t quite go to plan, finding the funny side can lighten the mood for everyone. Our children can use this lesson to help them cope with their own mishaps from the playground to adulthood. I hope my children learn to choose humour over disappointment and frustration when they can.
A is for Appreciation If sighted children have a family member who is VI or blind, they quickly learn they are blessed with something not everybody has. This confirms to them they are fortunate and encourages gratitude, reminding them not everyone is as privileged as themselves.
P is for Patience Children whose Mum can’t see very well have to wait a little longer sometimes. Whether it’s finding their favourite teddy or waiting for a bus because Mummy doesn’t drive, things just take a little longer. They get used to the fact they can’t get what they want straight away and things can be worth the wait. I hope my girls will have the patience to wait for things they really want in life eather than settle, and for them to show patience for themselves and others.
P is for Participation My visual impairment means as a family, we work as a team. Everyone has responsibilities appropriate to their age and ability. For example, when crossing a road, it is the children’s responsibility to be where I expect them to be. My three year old knows she must hold my left hand and as I carry my cane in my right hand, my five year old knows to hold on to either my pocket or handbag strap – something I can feel her holding onto, on my right side. The girls know that getting in their ‘places’ is their job and Mummy’s is to let them know when it is safe to cross and ensure everyone walks across safely. They know being a family is teamwork and everyone has a role to play. I hope they will grow up to understand the importance of responsibility, teamwork and appreciating the role that each individual plays.
Y is for You be you As far as insecurities go, blindness is up there. It’s also something I can’t change, so I’m working on being at peace with it and believing that I am enough as I am, blindness and all. It’s a work in progress, but like other things, the act of working towards the end goal is as important as reaching it. It’s important to keep learning and improving ourselves, but at the same time being happy with who we are now. I would like the girls to see that I am happy and comfortable with who I am now, even though I am working on things too. I hope that when insecurities creep up on them, they are able to find perspective and realise that improving and learning is all part of their journey. As long they are being true to themselves, being imperfect is more than enough.
M is for Methodology It’s important that my children learn that things are done in a certain way and things are kept in a certain place. This is how I, a VI mum can get things done with fewer surprises, and children can learn this at a surprisingly young age. Also, when something doesn’t work, circumstances change or I simply suspect there is a better way, we try different things until we find a new way that works. Children are not just witnesses to systems at home, they have an active role in how we get things done and where things are kept. For example, keeping certain items within their reach means they can not only find things and tidy up, but they can access what they need to complete certain tasks like setting the table, puting away their laundry or getting ready to go out. I hope the girls learn that being thoughtful about how we do things can make things easier, whether you can see or not. I hope they remember to question how things are done, and always look to improve or find a better way. Things should not be done in a certain way simply because that’s how it’s always been done.
O is for Originality My kids are used to being in a family where we do things in a creative way rather than in the regular way, and there’s no fitting in or following the crowd here. We have to do things our way and be who we are because there’s no room for anyrhing else. Hopefully this is a lesson my children will keep with them and they will think originally and not be afraid to be original as they grow.
T is for Tolerance Growing up with a Mum with a disability or anything that is considered a bit different from society’s ‘norm’ teaches children that diversity is not a big deal or something to achieve. To them, it’s just a normal part of life. Growing up with diversity and tolerance so central to your every day that you don’t even notice it, has got to be good for the girl’s future and for those they meet.
H is for help Children might be learning to tie shoelaces so parents help them. Dad might be at a loss when his daughters request French braids, so Mum steps in. A VI mum might be slow at identifying socks from the laundry so the children help by pairing their tiny socks. A child who is used to an environment where helping is reciprocal, learns that everybody, no matter who they are needs help sonetimes. One day you need help, the next day you provide the help. They learn needing help is normal and part of every day life. To them, it is so commonplace they don’t attach emotions to it, like pity, sadness or any kind of judgement. It’s simply the right thing to do. I hope my children grow up to be comfortable asking for help when they need it and help others without judgement.
E is for Equality Nobody in the family is more or less loved or valued because they are older, earn money, has different coloured skin, can speak more languages, can reach the kitchen counter, knows their times tables or are blind. Our roles and responsibilities differ according to our age and capability, but they are equally important. As are the opinions, well being and happiness of each one of us. Equality is more complicated in the outside world, but I hope their childhood spent in a loving, happy, mixed race family with a legally blind mum, gives the girls a solid starting point to work from as they navigate society’s equality issues throughout their lives.
R is For Resilience Mum having a visual impairment means the girls see first hand how things are not always easy and often, things don’t go to plan. They see me bump into things, have trouble identifying things, get disorientated or unable to read a letter. They also see me pick myself up and use the skills and tools I’ve acquired through the years to help myself. They see me try again, try things differently and sometimes, ask for help. They know Mummy gets things done, perhaps a bit differently to their friend’s mums, and it might take longer, but Mummy finds a way. They know that when things don’t work out, it’s OK. You can pick yourself up and try again and it’s no big deal, because they see it happen all the time. I hope the girls see that not allowing things to keep you down for too long before you can muster the strength to try again is an important lesson because although we all wish for the best for our children, no life is free of rejection and failure so resilience is key.
S is for simplify Simplfying our schedule, home and systems, makes life much easier for a mum who can’t see. It results in only the most important or most fun appointments to travel to, fewer belongings to manage (and trip over) and simple systems that I designed to suit my needs mean I can run my home and care for my family more efficiently. The children are an active part of keeping things simple, helping to prioritise activities, donating toys and books they no longer use and learning simple systems for things they are responsible for, like returning shoes to their own low level shelf. As well as making life easier, simplifying also frees up time and energy for living, having fun and enjoying each other’s company. They may not realise it now, but keeping things simple means we get to play another game or read another story before bed. As they grow older, maybe they’ll make the connection themselves and hold onto the benefits of simiplicity so they can enjoy their lives more fully.
D is for Description My kids are great at directing me to something I have dropped or describing what something or someone looks like. They often describe things that they see, but they do this differently for me than if they were describing something to their sighted Dad. I think that’s because in their own way, they understand that for me to understand in the same way my husband does, they need to use different words because, unlike my husband, I can’t see what they are pointing out. Practicing how to describe things will hopefully help them to be more acticulate and mindful about the the language they choose in relation to who they are talking to.
A is for Advocacy Sight loss throws the idea of advocating for yourself and others, into a different light. It isn’t always about legislation and petitions, it can be about speaking up when you know someone has cut in front of you in a line even though you can’t really see them, or when you are being overlooked, underestimated or prejudged. Speaking up doesn’t come naturally to me, in fact im really bad at it. I’m too polite, too mild and too English. But the combination of sight loss and parenthood is a powerful motivator and slowly but surely I am getting some practice in. My girls see me politely and firmly fight my own corner when a grumpy receptionist will not help me fill in a her paper forms. They see me fight the corner of others as I volunteer for an amazing sight loss charity. They of course see me support them in any way they need me to. Hopefully, they will see all of this and grow up being far better at advocating for themselves and others than I am!
Y is for Your time is now The past has given me amazing memories and some tough moments too. I believe the future will bring even better things, even if it also promises to bring further sight loss. Today, however os what it’s all about. Today, I got dressed, did housework, completed an online school registration. I played with my children, spent time with my husband and sent a message to a friend I’m thinking of. It doesn’t sound amazing, but sight loss has encouraged me to try to relish the peaceful moments, even the seemingly mundane. Today wasn’t exciting, but I chose to approach it with joy and gratitude. I enjoyed getting ready, because it’s fun to put together an outfit and pick some jewellery, even though I had nowhere to go. I relished the time I enjoyed with my family, because they are special to me, even though I see them everyday. Housework and admin are not exactly fun but I’m grateful I have the skills and tools that mean I can still do these things for myself, even with very little vision. I hope to encourage my girls to take pleasure in each day, however ordinary it may be and find joy in the small things, because the ‘todays’ are what life is all about.
Some people may wonder if my girls are missing out on some things because their mum is VI and can’t do things exactly like other mums, but i wonder if the opposite is true. Perhaps havimg a VI mum actually gives my daughters unique experiences and an early grounding in concepts and lessons that they can draw on as they navigate their own lives. Being a parent is largely about arming your children with the necessary skills to build a life for themselves. If any of what I have said today is actually true and not just of my imagining, and my girls do take their head start in any of these lessons into adulthood, then being a blind or VI Mum must be a blessing.
As ever, thank you for reading my rambling thoughts. Wishing all the Mums a very Happy Mother’s Day! x