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

By Cathy Allen, Parent, Mesquite, Texas

It's a mother's nature to dream of her children's future. In the beginning the dreams fill us with contentment and hope. And because they make us feel so good, we embrace the dreams in our hearts. Forgetting their fragile nature, we determine that they will be real. As our children grow we must be careful to adapt those dreams to the realities of our children's individual preferences, unique personalities, and circumstances of life.

"Of course! This is obvious!" you may say. In my own experience, however, I have found that getting my heart to accept the realities my mind sets forth is not as easy as it is obvious.

Being a little on the creative, eccentric side, the dreams I have for my children may be a little different in nature than some. I think you'll agree, however, that the dreams that flow from my heart and the dreams that flow from your heart, although different, awake within each of us an equal amount of pleasure.

I want to show my children the simple beauty of nature and of music, the enjoyment of laughter and a warm embrace. Surely these things will enrich their lives whatever vocational path they choose to take. With my boys, I sang to them as babies and now give them musical instruments to explore and enjoy. I take them out on the porch at night, snuggled together in our pajamas and wrapped in blankets, to watch nature's electrical light-show during a thunderstorm. We hike through wooded areas searching for vines to swing on or just the right walking stick.

This is life as I choose to live it expressively, experientially.

My dreams were threatened and their narrowness was challenged with the birth of my daughter Rachel, who is now 4 years old. Hearing impaired, visually impaired, with development delays and other medical conditions, Rachel preferred the safeness of indoors. Her world consisted of sterile, protective environments. Although she was surrounded by and touched with hope, tenderness and intense love, there were also traces of apprehension and grief in every encounter.

I didn't know how to draw her into the life and personality of our family. How could I help her truly experience life when she has minimal vision and hearing?

I watched the vision and hearing teachers attempt to define the world as it is to her. (What does she see, hear, respond to?) I started out hopeful, but ended up discouraged to discover how small her world really was. But one thing I knew. I would have to enter into her world before I could guide her into my own. I swung between optimistic denial and hopeless realism. Neither was a place I could stay for long because each soon evicted me and banished me to the other extreme. As I struggled to find the secret gate that would allow me entrance into her world of deafblindness, gradually I came to a place of optimistic realism.

I understood, at least in part, that her sensory limitations brought her world closer to her. She became intimate with pleasures even more simple than I had attempted to instill in my boys.

Whereas with the boys I lay outside gazing up at the stars dazzling in the clear night, with Rachel I lay on the floor cradling her underneath flashing Christmas lights in a darkened room.

Whereas I had taught the boys many songs and introduced them to music of many styles, with Rachel I found intense delight in the beauty and expressiveness of her tiny hands signing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."

Whereas with the boys I encourage their sense of adventure by prodding them to catch a cricket with their bare hands or climb to the top of a mountain to see what's there, with Rachel I am proud of her courage as she cautiously, but voluntarily, reaches out to touch a bush to discover just what that green thing is. Or when she opens a cabinet door and, after studying the dark recess, reaches into its depth, to determine if anything fills the void.

Recently, Rachel and I sat on a bench swing overlooking a lake as the sun set. Rachel was oblivious to the unique strokes of purple, pink and orange coloring the sky in the distance. For a moment, a twang of grief entered my heart at the thought of the peacefulness she was missing because she could not see the setting sun.

But then, impatient with my distraction, her little hands on either side of my head turned my face toward her own. She drew very near as if to study the distinct design of my features and understand the expression she found there. Then, pointing to a spot on my cheek, she planted a gentle kiss in that very place and did the same on my other cheek. Placing her nose on mine, in a familiar gesture of affection, we rubbed noses as I said out loud, " Nosey, nosey, nosey." Smiling her bright smile, she clapped her hands and then threw her arms around my neck, squeezing tightly ~ expressing her love and pleasure.

Rachel may never see a magnificent sunset, but she can 'see' my face and feel my warm embrace. It is my dream that when she comes to me, she will always find a glimpse of sunshine in my smile and experience the peacefulness of the setting sun in my touch.