My wife is illiterate and looks innocent but sometimes she can really think out of the box and tiptoe far into the future. Realizing how disability can create barriers even within the family, she always tries to keep our children closer with me with the hope that they would grow up learning to accept me as their disabled father. Ever since my eldest son and my adopted daughter were 6 or 7 years old, she would let them guide me whenever we went out into the town or other places and every time I refused to walk with them not being able to trust them, she would always warn me they would hesitate to walk with me when they grow up if we don’t let them do it right now. Yes, after all, she was right. I realized that we should never let such a wall form between me and my kids right from the beginning. Hence, I always started walking with my kids whenever I went out and today, my eldest son always comes to my office after his school hours to fetch me home. As of now, both my adopted daughter and eldest son do not seem to hesitate to walk with me and this is what my wife wants to see in all the times to come.
I know it’s often difficult for children to fully accept their disabled parents mainly due to the perceived stigma attached to the issue of disability. In the neighborhood or at school, they don’t want to be called the child of a disabled father or disabled mother and seen different and odd from the rest of the people. In a bid to tune themselves up to the perceived social expectations of their friends, there is a chance that they might not even reveal the true identity of their parents to their friends. When one of my sisters-in-law was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and had to be amputated, it seems her teenage son had reportedly said to his friends that he was ashamed to see his one-legged mother and that he wished if he didn’t have to go back home. Although he was too young to be able to think rationally, it was the most painful moment for his mother to process those words during the final few months of her life. She died an agonizing death in 2012.
Likewise, there can be many cases in which disability has created walls between the children and their parents and within the family circle. But my wife does not want any barrier between me and my kids as a result of my disability. She often tells them how hard I work every day to feed them and that they should always help me. I think she wants them to realize that I am also an equally important member of the family and would continue to be so. We don’t want to create any vacuum in our relationship with our kids. We don’t want to leave them at a distance from where they can look at me as a disabled father. In fact, we want them to feel proud to be identified as the children of a blind father wherever they go. So we are trying our best to engage and interact with our kids as much as we can so that we can grow together as a harmonious family. Today, all my kids know I am blind and that I can’t see. So they often help me get my things or guide me to new locations whenever necessary. They often ask me various questions about my disability: how and when I lost my sight, or the like. A couple of days while walking with my 10-year-old son to a shop, I was very much touched when he asked me if I ever wish to see his face and that of his younger brother and sister. I didn’t have any convincing answer for him but that really made me reflect on his innocence and the painful reality behind his curiosity. I am sure he has been able to get into my shoes and look at the world from my perspective. I am hopeful that my children would continue to look at me with love and respect as they grow up into adulthood. It would be the most painful and disheartening thing for me and my wife in life if my disability ever becomes the dividing line between us and our children in the future. But we are optimistic that such a thing would never happen to us.