Oopsies with Blind Mama — By Kelsi Hansen
Being a parent means that your children are going to have oopsies, and some of them will be your fault. Being a blind parent means that more of them will be your fault. Okay, okay … not necessarily. I cause some accidents with my child because I am accident prone, not because I am blind. But sometimes it is because I am blind.
When my son was still in the toddling phase, I can’t count how many times I accidentally bumped into him and knocked him over. Just the other day, my son was going down the stairs in front of me and I thought he was farther down than he was, and I accidentally bumped my knee into his back and he tumbled down a few stairs. I didn’t see how close he was to me. Every parent knows the heart wrenching panic of your child falling down the stairs. Now add, not seeing which part of his body he landed on and how he fell, the fear is increased exponentially. Then there is the second of silence afterwards before the tears. In that second, I could not see how he landed and I feared the worst. Then he cried, and I knew that he was somewhat okay. Luckily, he landed on his bum and not his head. On top of all of this panic, add the realization that this was your fault. I bumped into him because I didn’t see him there. The guilt of these situations can be overwhelming.
So this complication was never on my radar to even think about as a potential side effect of being a blind parent. I mean I never thought before my son was born: “how to avoid catching my child’s finger in the door if I didn’t see it there.” Or, “Should I be worried about walking around the house with him? What if I bump his head into a corner? I mean I still do it to myself. How do I not do it to him?”
Let me just reiterate, this isn’t necessarily because I am blind. 80 to 90 percent of it is that I am accident prone, and just don’t pay attention. But I would say that a definite 10 percent is that I am blind, and just didn’t see his finger in the door, or his head getting too close to the corner when I was walking with him.
Does this mean that I shouldn’t be a parent because I am blind? Absolutely not! It’s not a cut and dry issue. There are always ways to work through potential difficulties.
So the questions have now become: “how do I avoid causing accidents where possible?” And, “how will my son adapt to being injured because mama couldn’t see him there?” And, how to personally deal with the guilt of accidentally hurting your child because of your disability whether that be blindness or clumsiness?
Answer: There is NO good answer!
No just kidding. There is a way around pretty much everything. Maybe not everything, but most things. For me, I know that I need to slow down and try to pay more attention to my surroundings. I do not need to be in a hurry all the time. Whatever it is that I need to do, it will wait half a second longer for me to listen, observe my surroundings and be more cautious. It should be noted however, I am not the best at taking my own advice. I am getting better at slowing down and recognizing where my son is at in relation to me … I just need to remember to actually do it. But the point is, that I am working on it and getting better every day.
Also, now that my son is older, as horrible as it sounds, he doesn’t tip over as easily, and can move faster. It’s not quite as important for me to slow down as it was when he was smaller and barely walking. So recently, I’ve had to remind myself more often to be aware of my surroundings.
As far as my son goes, I would say that he has adapted quite nicely to having accidents that are probably mama’s fault. This is not to say that he does not get irritated when I bump into him and he stumbles. I still get the attitude riddled “MO-O-OM” that every parent in the history of the world is familiar with. Overall though, he knows that mommy didn’t mean it. I ALWAYS make sure I apologize so that he knows it was an accident. In general, as a parent I think it is extremely important to apologize to your child when you were in the wrong. But especially, when you as a parent cause some sort of oopsie. When you reach out to grab something that he is trying to hand you, or turn around with out realizing he is behind you, and your hand hits him, it is imperative that he know it was an accident. I would not want him to think that I intentionally smacked him, or that he was in trouble when he was not. I do not want him to ever think that I would intentionally hurt him, so as such I stress that it was an accident and apologize. Besides assuaging my guilt, it also shows him to take responsibility for your actions and to apologize for them.
He has also developed other techniques to avoid potential catastrophe. If I was carrying him down a narrow hallway, he might put his hand out, or flinch away from a corner. Though now that he can talk, he mostly just says something. When he was around 18 months old, together we came up with a unique way for me to know where he was at (which really helps when trying to avoid accidents.) It was sort of a bird call. I would screech, and he would screech back at me. Might sound a little odd, but hey … at least I knew where he was at and wouldn’t run into him. So some of the ways were pretty straight forward, and some were silly, but we figured it out together.
Now … how to deal with the guilt of causing an oopsie … well that’s more difficult. Apologizing definitely helps, as does preventing them in the first place by slowing down. But there will always be accidents that are the parents’ fault, whether they are disabled or not. No matter how hard you try, you cannot control every outcome. Accidents are accidents, and they happen to everyone. And they will always happen no matter how careful you are.
So how do I deal with the guilt of this? I think that is a question everyone, disabled or not, can relate to. Personally, the way I deal with it is to accept it. To accept that I cannot control everything. To accept that my son is going to get hurt, and sometimes that will be my fault. And if it definitely was my fault, to accept it, apologize, and try to be more aware next time. Acceptance really is a wonderful thing. Once you accept that something is inevitable, it makes finding ways around it, or through it, much easier.
By Kelsi Hansen