From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

Real Vision

My friend Michelle is blind, but you’d never know it. She makes such good use of her other senses, including her “sixth sense” of intuition, that she rarely gives the impression she’s missed anything.

Michelle parents her children pretty much like the rest of us, except that she doesn’t sweat the small stuff. Her daughter, Sarah, six, and her son, Aaron, nine, really benefit from Michelle’s relaxed attitude. Once, Michelle told me that it sometimes bothered her that her children probably weren’t dressed according to her taste. You see, she relies on her husband and her friends to choose clothes for them. But since friends and Daddy don’t presume to know what the kids like, Sarah and Aaron often get to pick out their own clothes. But Michelle avoids any battles. As long as the clothes are clean and weather-appropriate, she doesn’t make it an issue. And she trusts that, at six and nine, her children can tell if they are too hot or too cold.

Another area where Michelle rarely argues with her kids is in keeping the house clean. It isn’t that Michelle doesn’t know when there’s a mess. She knows it’s time to clean when she steps on crumbs or toys that have been left out. But in Michelle’s house, the kids have learned to put their things away because it wouldn’t just annoy their mother to have a mess, it could be dangerous for her. Indeed, Michelle moves around her house so fast that often guests don’t realize she’s blind.

I realized this the first time my six-year-old, Kayla, went to play there. When Kayla came home, she was very excited about her day. She told me they had baked cookies, played games and done art projects. But she was especially excited about her finger-painting project.

“Mom, guess what?” said Kayla, all smiles. “I learned how to mix colors today! Blue and red make purple, and yellow and blue make green! Isn’t that neat? And Michelle painted with us. She said she liked the way the paint feels squishing through her fingers.”

Something about my child’s excitement caught my attention, and I realized that I had never finger-painted with Kayla. I didn’t like the mess. As a result, my child had learned about color from a blind friend. The irony made me sit down and take a look at my child and at myself.

Then Kayla said, “Michelle told me my picture showed joy, pride and a sense of accomplishment. She really saw what I was doing!” Kayla said she had never felt how good finger paints felt until Michelle showed her how to paint without looking at her paper.

That’s when I realized Kayla didn’t know that Michelle was blind. It had just never come up in conversation.

When I told her, she was quiet for a moment. At first, she didn’t believe me. “But Mommy, Michelle understood exactly what was in my picture!” Kayla insisted. And I knew my child was right because Michelle had listened to Kayla describe her artwork. Michelle had also heard Kayla’s pride in her work, her wonder at her discovery of the way colors blend, and her delight in the texture of the medium.

We were silent for a minute. Then Kayla said slowly, “You know, Mommy, Michelle really did ‘see’ my picture. She just used my eyes.”

I’ve never heard anyone refer to Michelle as handicapped. She isn’t. Hers is a special type of “vision” that all mothers could use.

Marsha Arons

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