Community//

Warning: Blind Mom on Board

Part 1 of Diversability's 2-part series on being a parent with a disability

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!
[Image Description: A picture of two people's legs. They are standing together at a crosswalk. One of these individuals is holding a white cane.]
[Image Description: A picture of two people's legs. They are standing together at a crosswalk. One of these individuals is holding a white cane.]

By: Leah Herzog, M.Ed.

“Mom!” says my almost-adult daughter through gritted teeth as she grabbed my arm.  I had stumbled off the narrow sidewalk for the 3rd (or 5th) time in 10 minutes.  “Use your cane!  It doesn’t help if you’re swinging it back and forth over the sidewalk! Why do you do that??!”

 “Because it’s still hard for me to acknowledge, even to myself, that I’m visually impaired.”

“Impaired?” she snorts. “No, Mom.  You’re blind.”

“I am not,” I huff.

“Yes. You. Are. You are basically blind,” she says with the inarguable authority of someone who sometimes knows me better than I know myself.

My visual impairment, caused by a degenerative retinal disease, has left me with no peripheral vision, extremely limited night vision, and only a sliver of central vision. I walk with a white cane and cannot navigate anywhere easily;  it’s often challenging to take me places.

We lived in suburban NJ and I could never do the fun, or even routine, outings that are hallmarks of suburban life.  I could never be the one to take my kids to dance lessons, drum lessons, Little League games or birthday parties.  I couldn’t drive them to New York City for a day in Central Park or a museum, or to explore different neighborhoods.  I could never participate in a carpool.  When my friends complained about carpools, I fought back tears, and sometimes I snapped at them—“I wish I could drive carpool!”—leading to awkward silences.

Not driving brought both logistical and psychological challenges in its wake.  All the driving fell on my husband, who had a full-time job.  If he couldn’t drive, then either our kids couldn’t go where they wanted or needed to go, or I had to ask someone for a favor. I quickly learned whom I could, and couldn’t, ask for help. 

Advanced planning was always required, as well as contingency plans.  My not driving engendered constant anxiety and stress for all of us, and not-a-little guilt for me.

“Why did you feel guilty, Mom?  It’s not your fault you’re blind,” my children still remind me.

I felt guilty because I knew that I wasn’t able to provide my kids with what other kids had, because my kids were the ones who had the blind mom, the mom who didn’t drive, who tripped or walked into things, who needed their helping arms, and “watch out Mom!” warnings. Children are highly sensitive to anything that makes them stick out, and a mom with a white cane is a doozy.

I have come to realize, however, that having a visually impaired mom has its benefits, and not just getting the accessible spot at the very front of the mammoth Bronx Zoo parking lot.  My son and daughter see disability as a human experience. They see a whole person, regardless of disability or difference. I am sometimes moved to tears by how inordinately kind, compassionate, and empathic they are—towards me and to others–who give help with grace and gentleness.  They are fiercely protective of me, share in my black humor, and never let me feel sorry for myself.  I am proud that they are more resilient than many of their peers. I would like to think that navigating life with a Blind Mom on Board fosters all of these.

Diversability is doing a two-day series on parenting with a disability. In this series, we have the privilege of learning about two Diversability community members’ lives as disabled parents. 

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Wisdom//

    Acceptance and Surrender

    by Isaac Lidsky
    Community//

    Bree Klauser: “Keep track of everyone you meet”

    by Karina Michel Feld
    Image via AngieYeoh/ Shutterstock
    Wisdom//

    Unexpected Lessons I Learned When Visiting a New Country With the Elderly

    by Natalia Lusinski

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.