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Winter 2000 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Mary Zabelski, NAPVI President Reprinted with permission from Awareness newsletter, published quarterly by the National Association for Parents of the Visually Impaired (NAPVI)

When my daughter, Cara, was little, I was somewhat fearful of her future, not knowing what to expect for a child who was "blind". Sometimes, the fatalistic viewpoints of others and the continued sympathy from relatives made me feel sad. Yet, my daughter never ceased to amaze me, with her enjoyment of life, her interests in the people and things around her, and her anxiousness to do what other children were doing. Just like other children!

When she was three, I enrolled her in a specialized preschool classroom for visually impaired children in our public school district. Once again, I suffered pangs of anxiety as I worried about her adapting to a new school. That first day, as she climbed up the yellow school bus steps, I felt a lump in my throat and rapidly blinked away my tears, as I kissed her goodbye. During those next two years, she made friends, caught chicken pox, learned to "pump" on the swings, and wanted a new bike with training wheels. Just like other children!

As the high school years began, I was concerned that she might not fit in or that other students might not want to be her friends. Since her mobility teacher had taught her to travel to our local high school independently, she made a neighborhood friend on the way home that very first week of school. Subsequently, she met several more girls at school who became her good friends. Although Cara and her friends were rather quiet and studious, I enjoyed hearing her laughter in the evenings as she and her friends discussed prospective or imagined boyfriends on the phone. She joined after school clubs, made National Honor Society, applied to colleges and went to senior prom. Just like many other high school students!

As college loomed ahead, I once again had doubts and fear about Cara's future. Were we doing the right thing by encouraging her to live on campus in another state? I spent the whole summer helping her to plan her classes, organize and match her clothes, practice hairstyles, order textbooks, arrange for mobility lessons, and practice doing laundry. After freshman orientation, as my husband and I were leaving, we hugged and kissed her goodbye with tears in our eyes, knowing that she was happy, excited, and somewhat anxious about this new stage in her life. Just like the other students! Just like other parents!

The return of cancer after college, her successful recovery, her athletic feats, Paralympic medals in cycling, law school graduation - these were more stages in her life and mine.

Last week, at the age of twenty-eight, Cara got married. She and Spencer are dreaming and planning their future together. Just like many other young men and women!

As I look back on all of the stages that we have passed through, one thing really stands out in my mind: Cara was a child, a teenager, a young woman just like other persons are children, teens and young adults. The issues and stages that she passed through are common to us all.

As parents, we had some decisions to make. Even though it may be easier to "do it ourselves" rather than to allow our children to struggle at a task, in the long run, the hard way is best. As Cara mastered chores, sports, travel routes, she became more confident in her own abilities. She had opportunities to be like the other children - to take on responsibilities, to participate in normal social activities and games, and to successfully accomplish small tasks on a regular basis when she was growing up. Now she feels good about herself and has confidence in new situations.

I encourage you to look at your child as a person first, with individual talents, skills, personality traits and abilities. Give your child responsibilities, encourage his or her independence, and spend quality time together. The blindness, visual impairment or other disabilities are a permanent inconvenience, of course, but are incidental to just being your child, with his or her own unique, special qualities. Just like any other person's child!