In so many ways, my son is just like yours. He’s 8 years old so burps and farts are, like, the funniest things ever. He is obsessed with cars and is the proud owner of hundreds (I’m serious – hundreds) of Matchbox and Hot Wheels die casts. He enjoys tormenting his little sisters. He is teetering on the precipice of knowing it all and realizing his parents know nothing.
My son, who will be 9 later this year, was born with several different visual impairments.
So my son is not like yours.
When he was first diagnosed, the outlook was grim. The pediatric ophthalmologist said our boy might never see. In the blink of an eye, the hopes and dreams I’d spent months (years, if I’m being completely honest) imagining for my child were in jeopardy. I mourned, I did. It might sound silly but I mourned big things, like the death of the plan I’d had all set for my new little family, and I mourned smaller things, like my husband not being able to play catch with his boy. While every parent is apprehensive over the battles that their children will all face one day, I agonized knowing that my son would face those in addition to the ones his impairments would bring him. I was angry. I was sad. I cursed that life wasn’t fair and that my sweet baby boy didn’t deserve all this.
I still feel that way.
But despite the grim prognosis, my boy has flourished. With every expectation he exceeds, my anguish and anxiety dulls little by little. His vision may not be like yours or mine but he sees.
Some people see him and they only see his disability. If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard “poor kid,” I’d be a rich, rich woman. What they don’t realize is what my son’s visual impairments give him. Because of his low vision, my son has the ability to judge someone based solely on one thing – the way they treat him. He doesn’t care if you’re overweight, what color your skin is, what you do for a living or what kind of clothes you wear. If you’re nice to him, you’re allright in his book. His low vision has helped shape my little boy into the person he is – sweet, loving, and able to relate to the most common – and also the most beautiful – core of humanity – the soul.
My son has unknowingly worked his entire life to never let his disabilities define who he is. He’s done so well, in fact, that upon talking to my 5 year old daughter a few weeks ago about how everyone is different, she was floored to learn that her big brother had an actual visible visual issue – never mind the internal ones. She’d never noticed it because she just sees her brother. This epiphany brought me to tears – both in pride for my girl and in shame for myself.
Raising a special needs child is difficult, it really is. You worry for their present and their future. You worry how to provide for your other children. You wonder how you’re going to give them all the care they require. You wonder how this will affect your own future and the future of your family, even your bank account. The doctors’ appointments, the therapist reports, there are a lot and they take up a lot of time. They’re tiring. They’re not always uplifting.
But watching my boy defy the odds every day of his life is a blessing. Watching him connect with a person’s soul is astoundingly beautiful. Seeing him bring a smile to the faces of so many people he meets is amazing. Learning from his sweet soul has inspired me to live more like him.
Judge less, accept more. Imagine if everyone lived like that. The world could do with more people like my son.