(Originally posted June 17, 2015)
15 years ago I became a mom.
15 years ago I held a perfectly healthy baby boy. I noticed how strong he was: “He’ll be a great athlete”, I thought. I noticed how engaging he was: “He’ll have lots of friends” I thought. The plans and dreams were pouring through my mind as I wondered what amazing things lie ahead for this miracle, this perfect little present to the world… and then I was told he was blind.
I was told, in one very quick conversation with the specialist, that he wouldn’t do the things I dreamed about. I was told he wouldn’t play baseball. I was told he’d never drive.
Fast forward 15 years and that horrific moment in the very cramped exam room is so incredibly distant from my reality with my son today. My son has done more in 15 years than I ever thought a child, blind or sighted, could do. He is an honor student at a “regular” public school. He gets voted to Student Council annually. He is in a rock band. He has won awards and is even featured in a book for his musical passion. He did play baseball… and football, and wrestling, and competitive swimming and diving, and now he is on the track team. He has blown every false notion and every supposed limit of blind people out of the water… he literally has changed what it means to be blind.
But there is this one thing nagging at him that is, no pun intended, driving him a bit nuts: he can’t drive. He is 15, and for those that have or had a 15 year old, the learner’s permit and driving lessons seem to consume their every thought. “When can we go out and practice driving” a 15 year old nags. “You’ll pay my insurance, right?” a 15 year old pleads. “When can I get my own car?” a 15 year old negotiates.
Although none of this takes place in my house, I know it happens everywhere else as I see it all play out on Facebook. Because I have a 15 year old I happen to know lots of moms with 15 year olds… so my news feed is constantly streaming with pictures of proud teens sitting behind the wheel for the first lesson, and then, a few months later, smiling ear to ear with the coveted little laminated card: the driver’s license.
We aren’t ones to dwell on the negative ‘round my house, we are a family of positive thinking (usually!) and action. Watch this:
In my house, instead of asking if he can practice driving, my son asks about gene mutations. Instead of comparing features of cars, we compare progress and hurdles with gene therapy and stem cell transplants. While others discuss costs of insurance and car payments, we discuss fundraising totals and clinical trial expenses. Although it seems a dreary story that my son can’t get behind the wheel, it actually is a story of hope, of action, and of opportunity just around the corner.
Will you share our story and help us #DriveTheResearch to get my son, his brother, and the other estimated 80,000 affected people to the finish line? I’d so appreciate it. And next time you have an argument with your teen about driving issues, be grateful.