My three-year-old son has been in preschool now for six months. It is absolutely incredible to see how much he has grown, developed and … did I say grow? Not only is he learning things like how to write the letter L and how to sound out words, but physically he has become so much more agile and he’s running like a real person runs. Along with all the growing and learning has come a few moments of stubbornness too. And many questions about everything you can possibly imagine.
1: About blindness
His inquisitiveness about life in general has really spurred me to bring up the topic about my blindness. When I brought it up to him I told him he knew lots of blind people and proceeded to list off a few of his favorite blind people. He responded by saying, “Mama you not blind, you’re LM.”
2: The Story Behind LM
Over the winter holidays we visited Eggbert, a very odd egg man who has a farm up in Newburgh, NY. It had been a Bakker tradition when my husband was young, so while we visited Grandma E we continued the Bakker tradition and visited Eggbert. This is all to say that while there we had to wear name tags so that Eggbert knew our names. My name tag said LM on it. Erik saw this and said, “LM not how you spell mama.” I explained that LM was my nickname and that’s what people call me.
3: About Blindness (Continued)
“Mama you not blind, you’re LM.”
I told Erik that he was right I was LM but I was also blind. I told him that daddy, his grandparents and he were all sighted and not blind. He insisted though that he was blind and that he wanted to be blind like his mama.
This was a very emotional topic for him because he literally started to cry and get very upset that he wasn’t blind like me. My husband had to comfort him and tell him that he was like mama in many ways but he didn’t have to be blind to be like his mom. I told him that if he wanted I would teach him braille so he could read like me. That pleased him and got him to stop the crying.
Since this initial conversation, we have had other conversations around my blindness. I have been wondering just how much he understands the fact that his mother doesn’t see so well. He does get it for the most part, and before I sign off, I must share with you how I know I’m raising a son who is proud of his blind mama.
4: The Light Bulb Moment
On the day America celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday, technically on March 2 but celebrated on the 3 this year, I went and read green Eggs and Ham to Erik’s preschool. It was great! Before I began reading, his teacher explained to the kids that many people speak different languages, and that those people can also read in the languages they speak. She continued to say that Erik’s mom reads a special language called braille and that I was going to read to them in braille. I sat on the floor with the kids and asked them to help me read the story by completing some of my sentences. They were excellent helpers. At the end, I asked if anyone had questions about anything. One of Erik’s friends asked, “Erik’s mom? Why is it that you have to read the braille?”
I told her this was a very good question. I explained that I couldn’t see very well and that I could only see a very little. Before I proceeded to say anything else, my little son bounced up and down on his seat and loudly proclaimed, “She’s blind!” He was so proud to announce that. It was like a light bulb went off in his head. I smiled and said that he was absolutely right, I was blind and that meant I had to do some things differently like read with my fingers instead of my eyes.
It was a great day indeed! And, although my son occasionally asks me again if I am blind, he is starting to make all kinds of connections about my blindness. I have him using his words to describe things he is seeing so I can perhaps tell him what it is he wants to know. He’s starting to learn how to sound out words so he is often reading things out loud to me and I thank him for telling me what the different signs say and follow it up with a reminder that mama can’t see the signs because she is blind.
5: A Huge Thanks
I think it is wonderful and a true testament to the blind people in my son’s life that he will grow up knowing that blindness is not a big deal—it’s just who you are and as a blind person you can do anything you want like go to the peace corps, have a family, run, read, cook, travel, dance, garden, work, go to school, and so much more. Thank you to everyone who has had a hand in, and will have a hand in, shaping my son’s beliefs around blindness.
Signing off for now,
Bay Area Blind Mom