Monday, May 13, 2013

Some Simple Steps to Raising a Happy Blind Kid 1. Fill the World with Music, Laughter and Love

Please note that I am in no way a trained specialist or educator of any sort. I am simply the Mother of a blind little boy who is flourishing. These are my humble opinions, and what’s that thing they say about opinions? Anyway, you’ve been warned.

Part 1 – Fill The World with Music and Laughter

When Gabriel was a baby I read somewhere that you should keep things quiet for your blind child so they could learn to identify all the sounds in the world around them. I instantly rejected that. What kinda crap…??? Sure, so my kid already can’t see to stimulate his brain and I’m supposed to keep the house snow-covered-graveyard quite, while we breathlessly listen for the comforting hum of the air conditioner and the much anticipated arrival of the mailman?

Nut-uh. Something about keeping Gabriel in the dark AND the quiet rubbed me the wrong way. This was the first time I considered defying the experts and the decision to do so had me so nervous I bit off all my nails. When I noticed that my toenails were looking more bitable by the day, I decided to trust my instincts. I got rid of his fancy mobile and found one that played Mozart. I threw all of his pointlessly, cute stuffed animals in a bag and found him ones that made noise or had interesting textures.

I started his musical education with the Classical Masters. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, even some composers whose names don’t start with the letter B. We went on to Ragtime, Opera and then graduated to Rock and Roll from Presley to the Present.

The first time he heard the Blues he cried. The first time he heard Reggae he kept time to the music by beating his hands on the side of his baby walker. It was Bob Marley’s, Buffalo Soldier and it was then that I knew he’d be musical. Rap helped him poop. Weird, I know. The first time he heard Raffi, I had to quickly adjust to never getting to choose the song, for a long, long while. I sang to him constantly and right after he started speaking he’d sing along. All my memories of his babyhood are interlaced with music, and I’m pretty sure his are, too. We did observe quiet time, but not too much of it – I figure the world isn’t a very quiet place and I’d teach him early on to appreciate and create his own peace.

One day when he was a little more than a year he played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on his toy piano. At first I thought I was having a stroke… possibly auditory hallucinations. Then he played it again. Evo thought I’d gone completely insane, because my sweet baby quite enjoyed making me look like a delusional, overly proud mother. Then…one day I showed my child up by capturing him playing it on video. This leveled the score to Crafty Mom-1, Sneaky Piano Playing Infant-23.

Evo and I bought him a professional level keyboard when he was two and he instantly started teaching himself to play. It was amazing! Finally, I could stop envying my friends their Baby Einstein videos, because now, I too, had something to amuse my child so I could do crazy things, like have a pee alone. Shortly thereafter, he told me that the melody to Twinkle, Twinkle and the Alphabet Song are one and the same. I had never realized that before. We had a good laugh about it. We laugh about everything, even him being blind. One of my friends does the best impression of Gabriel’s sneaky ‘ninja shuffle’ and his antics leave me in stitches. Even without the visual, Gabriel giggles even harder than me.

His laughter is the music I love best. Poor kid gets tickled so much, we had to teach him a ‘safe’ word. It’s Tasukeru, which means, “Help!” in Japanese. He has twelve different laughs now, from a deep Louie Armstrong belly laugh to a high pitched cackle that is quite freaky with his crazy, doll eye. His regular laugh is somewhere in the middle of those and soothes me like no cocktail ever could. I’m an addict.

He’s blind, but happy. If, in the future, his sightlessness – or anything else makes him unhappy, I’ll know in a moment. I’d miss that laughter like I’d miss bacon and shoe shopping during a post apocalyptic situation. When he’s an adult, I won’t be responsible for his happiness anymore, but I can arm us both right now with a constant dose of truth, comforting scents, sarcasm, irony, love, music and words. I can read up on amazing blind people, so he can have his choice of heroes. I can give him a wonderful childhood, and I try my hardest to do just that.

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