As a mother, when I see my daughter hurt, I want to protect her from being hurt more. There is a fine line between protecting and sheltering so much that our children don’t have the want to thrive.
Steve Young, NFL quarterback is quoted as saying, “Perception is reality. If you are perceived to be something, you might as well be it because that’s the truth in people’s minds.” I truly wish that I had heard this quote when Bella was young, and that I would have understood the impact my actions would have on her future.
Mind you, she is turning into a remarkable young woman. She has had many trials during her life. I have coddled her more than I should have, but I have not entirely hindered her natural want for independence, and I was no match for the strong will that is ingrained in her soul. But on many levels, I see how she might have benefited by a little less nurturing, and a little more need to hone in on her own daily tasks.
Several years ago, I was at an airport on a long layover, and I had nothing to read. I picked up a Smithsonian magazine, as it looked intriguing. I read one amazing article in it that I think of often. This article was about Daniel Kish, president of Visioneers, A Division of World Access for the Blind. While there are many remarkable parts of this article, like the use of echolocation, and that he rides bikes and teaches other blind people to ride bikes, there was one thing that shocked me the most: Daniel was a baby when he lost his eyesight, and his parents let him crawl around, and bump into things so that he could figure out his own way around and become independent.
As a very small child, Daniel started making clicking noises. He could hear them echo off of objects in front of him, and know when to save his head from bumping into things. As I read his stories, I could not decide if I was more impressed by his natural ability to learn how to move forward in life with his blindness, or with the strength it must have taken his parents to not pick him up and carry him everywhere.
Here is a link to the article: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/how-does-human-echolocation-work-180965063/
The website for his organization: https://visioneers.org/
I can assure you that I carried Bella for way too long. I hated her seizures, I hated how groggy her medicine made her, and I wanted to keep her in my arms so that I could protect her. Even after reading about Daniel and his amazing parents, I had a hard time letting go. But I did keep his story in my heart, and I did let go more than I would have if I had not read about him.
I also realize this: we do not raise our children alone. We often have a spouse, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles in the midst of our lives. We drop our children off at school where they have teachers look after them. It seems as the years went by, and Bella attended new schools, she carried a perception of herself, and shared it with anyone that entered her life. She knew that she could use her disability to make people feel bad for her and do things for her. She is perfectly capable of doing many things, but she has a way of convincing others she needs their help more often than she really does. I often wonder if I built this perception into her head, or if she would have felt that way anyway. Was it me, the doctors, her teachers, or just a mega combination of everyone and multiple hospital trips that gave her this perception that she always needs others’ help in life? This is a question I will never have an answer for. It is a goal of mine to change her perception of herself so that people in her life will step back and let her bloom.
To all of you young parents: I highly recommend you read the article about Daniel Kish, and you see how far he has come in life because his parents decided to give him room to grow, room to figure out his own way around. The success stories of people he has helped is astounding. Whether your child has a disability or is one hundred percent healthy, they need room to make their own mistakes. They will be stronger for it.