By Charlotte Mellor
Pity… Now this is a particularly important theme that runs through parents of children who are visually impaired lives, being offered unwanted pity.
This subject has been discussed many a time on a variety of websites so I thought it was about time that I shared my viewpoint on this matter. Now this piece by in no way shape or form is being published as an attack on people who feel bad for myself or my daughter due to the hand in which we have been dealt in life. I always try to adopt a positive way of thinking and I hope that my thoughts affect the words that I write and the actions that I take, but I think it is important that it is written as a way to raise awareness for this completely redundant flow of pity that seems to stream my way.
When I was collecting quotes for my 25 Things only a mother of child who is visually impaired would know article, I had one submitted by a godparent of a child who has a sight impairment and also a visually impaired adult. The quote sat with me for ages, it’s funny, how one sentence can completely sum up a variety of thoughts in an instant like that, the hairs on my body stood up on end and the words stayed with me for a considerable amount of time. I often refer to this quote in conversation and it is the definition of hitting the nail on it’s head!
That everyone feels sorry for you but knowing that the way society treats you and your kids is a far greater burden than not being able to see.
Now there are plenty of what I would consider injustices that happen to you or your child if for whatever reason you were chosen to be born that big scary thing… ‘different’, but in particular to me, undesirable pity is the one thing I really wish society would address. I expect a lot of this pity comes from a good place, uneducated and lack of thought also, but motivated by “I’m glad that’s not me and my child”.
Pity should not be confused with empathy. Empathy is a beautiful thing, which shows understanding and literally puts you in the feet of the other person and allows you to share their feelings. Pity to me is; I feel sorry for you.
Well let me tell you this now, I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, I don’t want you to feel sorry for my daughter. We don’t hold little pity parties around the dinner table where we discuss how unfortunate we are. Because me and my family feel like the luckiest people on the planet. We don’t dwell, we don’t wish for our situation or circumstances to be different. This fight for perfection, which is a word that shouldn’t even exist and perfection is subjective. I don’t consider my daughter lacking in some way or another or unlucky, I have complete faith that she is and was born the way exactly as she was supposed to be. The amount of times that I get asked “well is there anything that can be done?”. Done? Done? DONE? Scarlett is not broken and she certainly doesn’t need fixing!
There is a quote that I think really sums up this disillusioned notion of perfection by Italian born Nobel laureate Rita Levi-Montalcini:
Suppose what this quote means to me and something I think a lot not just about my daughter but about all the people I care for and also what I consider about motherhood is that the imperfections make it perfect and with parenting, there aren’t any perfect parents but plentiful perfect moments!
Another great phrase I am at the receiving end of when people meet Scarlett and they find out she is blind is “It must be so hard for you?”, yeah well its hard for any parent, so why don’t people say to me with regards to my sighted child Sonny “It must be so hard for you”. People seem to get confused with what different means I think. Because something is not formed in the image that they consider perfection then it automatically falls into the realms of hard. Well no, caring for and looking after my daughter is not hard, in fact its an absolute pleasure as is raising my sighted child Sonny.
For the last two nights due to feeling a little under the weather myself and Scarlett have been pulling ‘all nighters’ as she has been falling fast asleep as soon as she returns from school. Pork chops and sweet potato mash at 2am, followed by a 3am bath, splash and play session. The alternative to this would have been a full nights sleep, which yes, would have been great, us parents all know the benefits to a full night sleep. And yes I am tired and yes I am bleary eyed and yes I walk into shops often unable to recall the reason why I am there… but I’m not sat up at night with my wonderful delight of a daughter feeling sorry for myself, her lack of sight has an effect on her circadian rhythm as her hormone melatonin is effected. That is it, that’s how life is, that’s what happens, but sleep or no sleep I am still tired, but I never pity myself and I don’t expect other people who perhaps don’t have to go through this sleep deprivation to feel sorry for me either.
I think my advice to people who do feel pity for Scarlett is that your assumptions are what are shaping this way of thinking. The assumption that as she hasn’t been born in your preconceived image of perfection means that life must be terrible. Basically it’s ignorance in a nutshell and if you really do want to pity something pity that instead because Scarlett is happy, I am happy and I wouldn’t change her for the world.