Teach your children well

I’ve heard the word “can’t” a lot in my life. When I was 12 and in Girl Scouts it was I couldn’t go on the camping trip because I couldn’t see. When I was 18 it was my mother saying I couldn’t travel across the country on a plane by myself because I was blind. This past year when I started looking for a job it was I couldn’t possibly watch children, because how could I do that if I can’t see? Until recently, I thought the general public’s idea that blind people are not capable of doing ordinary things was a learned assumption. I thought it was something Society top people over time. That if you can’t see, if you’re different, you can’t possibly do the things everybody else does. The last few weeks though have shown me otherwise. My stepson is four years old. He is a very smart very thoughtful little boy. He’ll spend a lot of time thinking about things before he’ll ask you about them. For the last few months his dad and I thought that he didn’t understand that I was blind. We figured he thought I was just a really inattentive adult, who he had to show things to over and over again before I realized he was talking to me. But a few weeks ago on his way to pick me up from work with his dad he said, “so Harmony sees like she always has her eyes closed all the time, right? That’s how it is?” His dad and I were both very impressed by how easily he summed it up. We told him that was exactly right and then he didn’t say anything about it for the next few hours. That night when we got home he was playing a game where he had to put these large colored circles together using small connector pieces. He stood there holding his circles and connector pieces and said “I guess I have to do this because you can’t help me.” I asked him to show me what he was talking about and he brought me the circles and the connector pieces. He said, “you can’t help me with this, because you can’t see. So I guess I just have to do it.” It was the first time in my life that I realized people’s instinctive response to my blindness is that I can’t do it. Whatever it might be. I put my musings on this aside and showed him that I could connect the circles for him but then we talked about how I couldn’t see the colors so he had to help me with that. We worked as a team, him choosing the right colors and handing them to me and me connecting them. Little things like this have popped up over and over again the last few weeks. How I can’t see the Pokémon on his game so he has to tell me about them instead. How I can’t see where the car door is but I can still open it and put him in and do his seatbelt up. He has started looking at me with the same wonder that his big sister did a year ago. “Harmony, how do you know where my drink is? “Or, “Harmony, how can you know what Pokémon this is if you can’t see it?” I love these questions and do my best to explain it. When I’m absolutely stumped as to how to explain something I tell him to close his eyes and see if he can do it with his eyes closed. This only works sometimes like in the case of how I knew the Pokémon he was holding had ears if I couldn’t see them, other times he still looks at me like I’m crazy and does not understand how I can possibly do whatever it is we’re trying to do. But slowly he’s learning that I can do most everything he wants to do. We even turn voiceover on his iPad so I could start a show he wanted to watch. There are a few things that I can’t do. When those come up we just explain that I can’t do that. In the case of his dad’s computer which doesn’t have voiceover, I just tell him I can’t do that one because it doesn’t talk like our phones and iPads do. I’ve told him that when there are things he wants me to know about that I can’t see he has to tell me about them if they’re on the TV or the iPad, or let me feel them if they are a toy. This line is blurry for kids so a lot of the time he’s putting my hand on the iPad to show me things. The last thing he said can’t about was his birthday party. We were talking about what kind of decorations and cake he wants and planning it all out. He was very very excited and very much looking forward to getting things and decorating the house. He stopped in the middle of this conversation and said, “wait! You can’t put up decorations and stuff. Daddy will have to do it!” When I asked why he said, “you can’t see where to put everything! So how can you know?” I told him that he would have to show me where he wanted things and then we could put them there. He got excited again and said that was a good idea! These conversations have led to discussions about other disabilities, “if someone can’t hear what’s that called?” “If someone can’t walk what can they do?” We have talked about sign language and wheelchairs, even using his sisters American girl doll wheelchair as an example. And all of our conversations his dad and I try to emphasize the point that no matter how different it might look, or how impossible it might seem, just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they can’t do it! This is made me wonder how much different my life could have been if some parents had just taken the time to educate their children. If some adults just took the time to become educated themselves. It’s not difficult to teach your children that everyone is capable of doing things. It’s not enough to just teach your children to be kind to those who are different from themselves, they need more than that. They need to be taught that different does not mean incapable. They need to be taught that different does not mean impossible. Take the time when the opportunity comes up with young children to teach them these things. Don’t just look at the girl in the wheelchair, or the blind girl, or the deaf girl, or the girl who is mentally retarded, and say “be nice to her because she’s different.” Teach your children that these people all have value, even though they don’t look or act the same as you do.