Since my son was diagnosed with a retinal degenerative disease and the doctors told me that his chances of having detached retinas are greater because of the disease, I've always wondered, what can he do? what can't he do?
Some sports were just out of the question. Football could lead to a blow to the head. No way. Baseball was out because he wouldn't be able to see the ball coming at him until it was right on top of him. Yep. Another blow to the head scenario. Am I too overprotective? Many people told me that I should let my son do what all of the kids around him are doing. That fact is, my son is not like other children. He has a visual impairment. As his mother, it is my job to protect him.
I couldn't let him go through life without doing anything though. That seemed wrong. We settled on karate. In karate, at least he has some control over the situation, although, there were many times when I cringed watching him spar with other kids. After five years, he earned his black belt.
He's in his last year of middle school now. After walking to the bus stop for the last two years, he decided he wanted to ride his bike to school instead. The school is only two miles away. Of course, as his mom, my first instinct was to say "no" because of the dangers. He would have to cross a fairly busy street and ride on uneven sidewalks all the way to school. He convinced me that he could do it and that he could see well enough to be able to tell when cars were coming up on him. For the first six months all went fine.
Then, last week, I got the call from my son, panic in his voice, "Mom, I can't move my arm. I got into an accident." I ran out of a meeting with my boss and drove as fast as I could from downtown to where he said he was. When I got there, I was greeted by a blocked road, an ambulance, a fire truck and police officers. My son was in a stretcher. It took everything I had to maintain my composure without running to him screaming! The paramedic thought he broke his shoulder.
I got him to the hospital where we found out he actually tore his AC joint, the ligament that holds his shoulder and clavicle together. He was in so much pain. We were told that he'd have to wear a sling for 3-6 weeks. It could've been so much worse, but still, guilt invaded every part of me. This was all my fault. What was I thinking letting my visually impaired son ride his bike to school? He promised me that it wasn't because he didn't see the dip in the sidewalk but that he just wasn't paying attention. In the hospital, I could just imagine what people must've thought of me. How could this mother let her son ride his bike?
Later when I told people what happened, quite a few literally asked, "Why was he riding a bike to school in the first place?" The fact is, he's getting older. He's needs to figure out on his own what he can and can't do. As hard as it is, I have to let him. Did he wreck because he couldn't see? I'll never really know. He wants to try out for the swim team (if his shoulder heals on time). Once in high school he wants to be on the golf team too. His Pop-Pop taught him how to play and he's actually pretty good.
My son is old enough and smart enough (most of the time) to make his own decisions about what he can and can't do. I just have to make sure I'm not the thing that holds him back. Even though, I'll ALWAYS be there for him, it's time for me to let go a little, as hard as it is.
2/21/2013 11:40:38 am
Lisa - We met at the Visions Conference 2 years ago in Baltimore. You and your son inspire me! It is probably the toughest choice, but I agree at a certain point you have to let them learn and decide for themselves. That being said, my mom - who had no vision troubles - 20/20 her whole life.... just had a spontaneous retinal detachment. You never know. But I can't imagine my 8 year old dealing with what she had to deal with for 4 months.
Lisa L Pleasants
2/21/2013 09:06:08 pm
Hi Melissa. Good to hear from you! So sorry about your mom's detachment. That must be so hard to deal with. Are you going to VISIONS in Baltimore again? We'll be there this year.
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