“Mommy, he’s blind” … yelled the little girl while pointing at my son Alejandro as we walked past her at the swimming pool.
My heart stung for a split second.
Did Alejandro hear her?
If he did, did he know that she was talking about him?
We were rushing to the pool for his weekly swimming lesson and Alejandro was so excited about seeing ‘Leche’ (the nickname Alejandro has given his instructor) – that I’m not so sure the girl’s words even registered with him.
I rejoice in this possibility.
Shooting a quick glance at the little girl and her mother beside her, who grinned sheepishly at me, I mentally considered whether this was a ‘teachable’ moment I should seize. Looking down at my precious son and seeing his huge smile and anticipation for his lesson – and feeling his urgent pulling on my hand indicating that we must hurry – I decided no, it was not.
Why did those 3 little words, which were spoken so matter-of-factly (and I’m sure from a place of innocence) prick my heart then and continue to prick it long after we had left our swimming lesson?
My current reasoning, and this may very well change as I continue to ponder, is this: because she didn’t see Alejandro as a whole person – which is how I see him….but rather as a part of one.
Actually her attention was solely on his cane, so I am not sure if she even saw HIM.
I don’t blame the little girl as kids are often curious (and blunt) by nature. Her comments did however make me realize how easy it is for people with special needs or a disability to be so quickly dehumanized.
I thought about how when a person in a wheelchair has to board a bus here in NYC in which a special hydraulic lift is required. I often hear some of the other passengers on the bus saying,
- “Oh no!… It’s a wheelchair!”
This is often accompanied by not-so-silent moans from them as well because this process may slow them down by all of 30 seconds perhaps, if that!
He/She is not an it …but a person who happens to use a wheelchair.
This swimming incident only strengthened my resolve to ensure that we see Alejandro as ‘our son’ Alejandro 1st and not ‘our blind son’ Alejandro.
We’ve never once thought otherwise, but I am reminded once again, that others don’t share that same view.
My focus though is not on them but rather on raising a happy, independent and confident little boy – and by his cheeky grins, hearty laughter, curious mind and cuddly bear hugs – I’m pretty sure that we are doing a good job of making that happen.