By Tammie Hefty
I looked at Evie tonight at dinner and said, “You know, Evie, with your scabbed elbow, patch of cellulitis on your other arm, scabby bug bites on your legs, and the Band-Aid over your toe that the toenail is falling off of…you look like any normal kid.” …and my heart swelled.
Having a child who’s blind, having a child who’s got anxiety that is “off the charts” (according to her medical reports), having a child who’s got a sub-average IQ and is quite vulnerable in the world—all of that could lead my husband and me to say, “No, thank you, we can’t do that,” or “Gosh, we’d better stay home,” or “I don’t think that’s safe.” But I have been learning that I don’t want to “pass on” to Evie any fears of this world that she shouldn’t have. I don’t want her to FEAR doing things that other kids should and would be able to do.
I look for ways to make things “doable.” I want her to experience the same things, even if it’s in a different way. That’s why we went to Me and My Gal Camp at Camp Black Hawk in Elton, Wisconsin. It’s a Girl Scout camp, and as a mom, I was able to go, too! I knew that Evie would not be able to handle a day camp, let alone a sleep-away camp, at this time, with her anxiety and inability to advocate for herself. So, I signed us up to attend camp together.
Mind you…I am not “outdoorsy.” Actually, my mom and my sister were probably waiting for me to call them in tears myself the four days when Evie and I were at camp. Seriously, I couldn’t handle a tent in our suburban backyard when I was younger. I found an eyelash in my mouth one time, and was convinced that I had swallowed a wood tick and would likely die within 48 hours. So, you put this mommy in the deep woods, in a platform tent, with a bathroom about a three-minute walk to the lake, with no electric in our tent, with mosquito netting around our cots to “attempt” to keep out pests….well, I was a wee bit outside my comfort zone. But I thought to myself, “You, Tammie Jo, will be brave for your daughter this time. You can no longer be wimpy.”
And we did it!! What’s more, we enjoyed ourselves and can’t wait to go back! Did the mosquitoes, spiders, deer fly, horsefly and ticks drive me batty? (Yes, there were bats, too!) Of course they did. Did I feel creepy and crawly, and say a few extra prayers every night and every morning? You bet I did! Did Evie get frightened by the darkness in our tent, and finally did we agree to sleep in our car to have the light of the moon? You bet she did! And was I MORE than happy to sleep in the car as well, because it meant fewer bugs…aaahhh, that would be a BIG YES! We slept darn well in that little blue Camry. Evie was actually crushed when I told her we were NOT really going to sleep in it when we got home.
Despite my fears, despite Evie’s fears, we went horseback riding, made journals, helped “hop” for our table, went out in the row boat just the two of us, tie dyed shirts, made polymer clay jewels for a necklace, sang songs, roasted marshmallows, swam at the lake front, showered in those public showers with moths flying around that were the size of small birds…we did it…and we can’t wait to go back next year and try to do even MORE than we accomplished this year.
And isn’t that what life is all about? Taking steps toward doing things you never thought you could? I had fessed up to my husband Jeff about two days before the trip that I was TERRIFIED. But I knew that God would never leave me, nor forsake me…so I knew that I had the biggest most powerful God over all the Universe on my side. Whom, or what, shall I fear?
Then, when I had some quiet time and was reading a recent edition of Future Reflections (www.nfb.org), I read an article titled “The Federation in Your Journey: The Courage to Try.” It was written by Mary Ellen Gabias, who is legally blind. She wrote about a “paradigm” that she has lived with: DON’T MOVE. She told a story from when she was five years old and had gone out to play with a friend. Her mom had said, “Don’t go near the side yard. Workers are repairing the septic tank.” (vol. 32, no. 1, p 1.) However, Mary Ellen did not heed her mother’s warning, and she ran “full speed ahead.” As Mary Ellen said, “Gravity won.” Her mother told her, “You pay a price when you don’t pay attention.”
Mary Ellen goes on to write that she was ever so grateful that her mother had not said, “Don’t Run! It’s too dangerous for you.” However, she also goes on to write that, “A long white cane would have made things far easier for me, but my parents told themselves a story that, along with a tin cup and a handful of pencils, the cane was part of the beggar’s badge. I became afraid to move because I lacked the tool that would have helped me.” (p. 2).
Wow! What a sobering thought. I DO need to make sure that Evie feels capable of doing things on her own, and that she’s not afraid that MOVING can be dangerous. I’m so thankful she has her wonderful Ms. Kay to teach her cane travel. Ms. Kay gives Evie so much confidence and courage and KNOWLEDGE that she requires to become independent. I even learned on a cane walk with them NOT to hold Evie’s hand, and NOT to try to assist her on the stairs. Stay out of her way. She knows what she’s doing when she has that cane in her hand. On several of her walks this past week, I have been trekking right out onto the street to cross, and Evie has stopped, checked and listened…oops! Did I ever feel sheepish then!
So, Evie has her share of bruises, bumps and blemishes, but really, that is a thrill to me at this point in time. I see that she is not afraid to be a kid. I think that is a big accomplishment and something we can continue to build on as we deal with her anxiety, with school becoming more difficult, and with the heartaches that inevitably come with being a teenager in the next few years (yikes!).
I’ll be praying for Evie AND for me–that I shelter when sheltering is required, and that I let her soar when her she’s just itching to get out of the nest.
Originally published on http://www.mycuplifted.blogspot.com on 7-6-2013.
Tammie Hefty lives in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin but will soon relocate to Reno, Nevada with her family.