Advice for Parenting Visually Impaired Children: Tip #6

Tip #6: Give Your Child Age Appropriate Opportunities for Exploration

I’ve always loved magazine quizzes – anything from “take this quiz to find out if he really likes you” as a pre-teen to “learn which decorating style suits your home” in my housekeeping magazines.  When I was trying to think of an interesting way to present this week’s tip, I decided to design my own little quiz.  If quizzes make you nervous, calm down.  This is a self-graded quiz in which there are no “right” answers.  These questions are designed to help you constructively evaluate the boundaries you set for your child.  I tried to incorporate different age scenarios, so that there is something that applies to everyone’s current stage.

Note: If you’re like my husband and think these types of quizzes are a waste of time, then just skip on down to the conclusion of this post to read my advice on giving children age appropriate opportunities for exploration.

1. When my toddler wants to “help” me in the kitchen…
a. I find something else for him to play with, there are too many dangers he might not see.
b. I open up a cabinet filled with tupperware and muffin tins.  He can crawl around inside and take items out without harming himself.
c. I explain to him what I am doing in the kitchen, and give him little jobs to do, such as sorting large and small spoons.

2. When my 6-year-old daughter is struggling with learning to read…
a. I suggest we wait to work on reading skills until she is older.
b. I enroll her in a braille class even though I know she can see letters.  I think that learning to read in braille could be easier for her.
c. I ask her teacher to give me some suggestions on how to work with her in order to make learning to read a fun and enjoyable experience.

3. When my 9-year-old wants to go ride bikes with neighborhood friends….
a. I suggest they find something fun to do in our backyard.
b. I ask him to stay within 5 blocks of our house, and remind him to be aware of his surroundings.
c. I ask him where they will be going, and suggest making a stop at the nearby bakery to pick up a fresh loaf of bread to go with dinner.

4. When my 12-year-old daughter and I visit the museum downtown, we have to cross a lot of busy unfamiliar streets, which causes me to…
a. I insist on grabbing her hand as we cross streets.  It is way too chaotic not to hold hands crossing the street in this new setting.
b. I talk to her about the new place we’re traveling to, and offer her my arm if she needs a guide in this unfamiliar setting.
c. I remind her to bring her cane, and talk about all the exciting new exhibits at the museum.

5.  My 16-year-old son wants to enroll in drivers education classes.  I know his vision is too limited for safe driving:
a. I tell him I am sorry, but driving is absolutely out of the question.
b. I allow him to enroll in the class to learn the rules of the road, and suggest he talks to the instructor about ways he can participate in the class.
c. I take him to visit the eye doctor to discuss the matter in detail.

Every good quiz should have a bonus question.  Here it is: Have you set boundaries and expectations for your child that mirror those of their sighted peers? I chose an open-ended bonus question rather than multiple choice to encourage you to take the time to examine your current beliefs about your child’s capabilities.

As I stated above, there is no “answer key” for this quiz.  There are all different types of parenting for different types of kids.  If you tended to answer “a” to these questions, you may need to work on more age appropriate responses.  If you chose “b” and “c” for most of your answers, you have an approach that tends to align with age appropriateness.

When I was growing up, my parents allowed Joy and me to have a lot of freedom.  They took measures to keep us safe, such as making sure we were riding our bikes with responsible friends around the neighborhood.  Yet they did not coddle us or prevent us from trying many of the activities our peers were participating in.

Now that I am a mom, I understand the strong instinct to protect children.  I also have come to realize that different parents have varying comfort levels when it comes to setting boundaries.  I can see how it could be tempting for parents of blind children to set extra limitations in order to protect their children.  But I think it’s important to take a step back and evaluate how these boundaries are affecting your child’s growth.  While trying to “protect” your child, you could be standing in the way of their creativity, ambitions, and independence.  By expanding your child’s ability to explore in age-appropriate ways, you are offering them opportunities to reach their highest potential.

Read more in our series, “Advice for Parenting Visually Impaired Children”.

Hands

photoHands,

stacked and held,

matted and framed

hanging on a hook above my bed.

Four hands.  Mine is at the bottom, followed by my grandmother’s, my mother’s, and the tiny newborn hand of my eldest daughter.  When a friend took the picture 8 years ago, I had no concept of the significance it would hold for me in future years when the physical hands would begin to perish.

I miss the hand that covers mine so much.

Those soft hands, weathered from digging into an active life.  I remember how my grandmother didn’t want her hands to be near the top because she thought they looked too aged and wrinkled, so my mom traded hand positions with her.

If only she could have seen the hand that I now see, how each deep line holds a memory… one crease for each of the nine she bore, bathed and fed; one for each meatloaf baked to hot goodness; one for each face massage soothing tired eyes; one for each swim, golf and bridge game; and one for each time those hands folded, head bowed.

I love how I can glance at this photo daily and see the new dimensions it seems to carry, as if her life has embedded itself within each tiny pixel.  I’m not going to start worshipping this photograph or anything, for those starting to squirm as they read this, but for the first time I understand why, for centuries,  humankind has erected statues in honor and remembrance of both the mortal and Divine.

There is something in these objects that not only remind, but that teach and shed light.  I have vivid memories of walking past ornate statues and stained-glass windows while on a mission trip to Venezuela when I was 15.   I was there with this conservative, Protestant organization.  We’d pass these gorgeous Latino churches, many of them Catholic, and the group leaders would get nervous and say things like “Careful, don’t go in… it’s obvious those warped churches worship statues”, and they truly looked terrified, as if one of the statues might reach out and grab us.

I remember, even as a young teenager, having grown up Catholic and feeling a bit out of place in a Protestant mission group,  thinking it was funny how consumed with judgment and worry one group can be over another group’s spiritual beliefs and practices, though it would take me several more years to see the sadness in it– how easily we discount and criticize what we don’t understand.

Perhaps if the trip leaders had taken Cultural Anthropology or read about how much Indigenous  culture melded into those churches to create those eclectic statues, they would have seen how much history is embedded in art….and how much is lost when we discard people’s stories.

Sometimes we’re so consumed by the wrinkles  that we miss the raw beauty in all those creases.

Thanks, grandma Jean, for your hands that continue to teach me so much.

(re-posted from Joy’s personal blog in honor of Mother’s Day)

Not Fade Away: A Book Reflection

Not_Fade_AwayI first saw Rebecca Alexander on the Today show back in 2009, and I was intrigued by this young, peppy athlete, who was my same age and also losing her eyesight.

The idea of going progressively blind has always sent a nervous chill down my spine, if I’m being honest, yet I’ve always taken comfort in the capabilities of my other 4 senses, thankful that they help compensate for my failing eyes.  So the idea of losing another sense, especially one as crucial as hearing, seems unimaginable to me.  Yet this is the story Rebecca unravels in her memoir, Not Fade Away. Continue reading

Mr. Clean

I have a dirty little secret to share.  A housekeeper cleans my home once or twice a month.  And….that’s it.  That’s the secret.  Pretty dirty, I know.

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I am not wealthy, but rather house cleaning is something I prioritize in my monthly budget.  It’s not as though my house needs to be perfect.  I have 2 small children (8 if you count my husband), and a dog, so a perfect house would be quite a stretch at this point in my life. Continue reading

Life Without a Dishwasher

Spring has sprung, and that means lots of park dates with the kids. Playground conversations amongst the parents can be riveting. Yesterday’s topic of discussion was dishwashers. Some people have them. Some do not. Two of the non-dishwasher moms were lamenting this missing appliance

“Yes,” I chimed in, “That would be so hard not to have a dishwasher.”

“Well, I mean, it’s not that bad,” one of them responded in defense, “You just get used to it after awhile.”

“Yep,” piped in the other mom, “People lived for many many years without the luxury of dishwashers. It’s really not a big deal.”

“True,” I agreed, changing my stance like a crafty politician, “It would probably force me to stay on top of my dishes if I did not have one.” Continue reading

The #1 Way to Assist a Person With RP in Public

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Friends and family have often expressed to me and my sister their concern over whether they are being helpful when we’re out and about.
We have told people there is no right or wrong way, and no specific expectation, This is half-true.  I posted a list of tips and pet peeves a couple years ago, though looking over it now, it may be too detailed to remember.
Some friends have observed our husbands’ interactions with us and followed their lead.  This is an overall wise idea, as our men have been with us long enough to help us seamlessly.  My husband, however, has been known to be so laid-back and hands-off that I have walked into signs and fallen down a flight of stairs walking right next to him!  This may be why he recently told me that he feels excited when I pull out my cane. Continue reading