Reprinted from the November/December 2006 issue of VISability, a newsletter published by the Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS) program in Louisville, Kentucky; <www.vips.org>.
Editor’s Note: Don’t be deceived by the brief nature of this little gem. It has a powerful message for moms and dads of blind children of all ages. Here is what Maury Weedman has to say about the importance of “Letting Go”:
My name is Maury Weedman and I am working part time at VIPS as a certified orientation and mobility instructor, a certification I obtained at the venerable age of fifty-six. My wife Pauletta has worked at VIPS for more than fifteen years. Our totally blind son Jamie was and is my inspiration for pursuing this field. He has attended college for two years and is currently enrolled in a challenging program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. [Editor’s note: this is one of the three training centers for the blind in the United States operated by the National Federation of the Blind. The other two are the Colorado Center for the Blind and BLIND, Incorporated, located respectively in Colorado and Minnesota.]
Jamie has had to work very hard for his gains and has always done so with a can do” attitude. He exudes positive energy almost all the time and is inspirational in nature. Nevertheless, Pauletta and I have invested untold hours in his development. In order to mitigate the impacts of blindness, the effort needed by parents is constant and exhausting, but worth every minute of it.
Even though at times frustration can take hold, the typical result of active parents is a very close relationship with their blind child. This is true for me. My bond with Jamie is powerful. But the time has come to let go. This is a wrenching experience with any child, but when there is a disability, a parent’s fears are more exaggerated. We have a tendency to stay in protective mode and thereby inhibit the independence of our children. If this impulse is not resisted a child may end up as a fifty-year-old with no life, few skills, and deceased parents.
Where possible we must give our children the gift of independence, and let them go into the world. This tendency to over-protect will always be with us, but we have to fight it. Even though Jamie is twenty-two and very capable, I have recently gone through probably my worst crisis ever related to letting go, but the result is that Jamie is becoming a young man who is setting his own course. What more can a parent do for a child? So, if as a parent you aren’t going through some fairly extreme anxiety from time to time over independence issues, you may be hovering a bit too close.