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Friday, June 27, 2014

Flashback Friday: Embracing Her Sense of Style

When Emy was a baby my vision was much worse then it is today. It took weeks for me to regain the ability to identify colors, months to regain the majority of my peripheral vision, and years for my retinas to heal so I can see distance. Even with all that healing, my vision is still dramatically impaired and there are times when all three of these aspects of my vision still give me trouble. Especially color.

Growing up, I was always someone who loved the box of 64 Crayola Crayons. It seemed somehow inaccurate to relegate all shades of colors to just 8. Colors like teal, chartreuse, crimson, cerulean were much more descriptive ways to identify a certain shade.  In the weeks and months after Emy's birth I was often frustrated at my inability to distinguish color accurately. I will always remember the first time I walked into my living room after three weeks in hospital. My beautiful plum purple couch looked identical to the forest green chair in the corner - blurry, grayish-black shapes, the couch slightly darker in hue than the chair, but it was my memory, not my eyes that supplied the missing color.
One of the first OTs I worked with at home, put fluorescent duct tape on the edge of every step and the entrances to rooms where there was a transition in height between the floors. It wasn't until September, almost a full 3 months later, that I could see that the fluorescent color tape was pink, not the highlighter yellow, color I'd been envisioning.

So even as my eyes and body healed, there was still so much frustration. Losing my vision had been like turning off switch. Regaining it was a slow, agonizing process of constant adaptation and adjustment. For a long time various shades all blended into one of the three primary colors, slowly I regained hues of green and purple, although orange remained indistinguishable from red or yellow for a long time. Anything black or white pretty much looked kind of gray and murky. Forget seeing patterns or design details.

I was very thankful that my illness and recovery allowed me to dress in yoga pants and T-shirts so I didn't have to worry about coordinating fashionable outfits for myself. I was far more worried if my IV port and drain could be hidden by my clothing than whether or not I looked fashionable. But I did have an adorable baby, with tons of new, stylish, clothes that were begging to be worn.  As is the nature of babies, she required multiple outfit changes each day, which thus provided many opportunities for me to freak out.

Somewhere in the midst of everything else I was dealing with I decided to add a brand new neurosis to the mix. Everything I dealt with on a daily basis was incredible frustrating and completely out of my control. My frustration at my current condition manifested itself in anxiety over clothing, baby clothing to be specific. It wasn't like getting Emy dressed didn't provide enough of a challenge; with the wiggling body, flailing limbs, and trying not to decapitate her while pulling shirts and onesies over her (not-so) little noggin. Nope. Doing this 4-5 times each day wasn't enough stress, so I decided to become OBSESSED with making sure that every outfit was perfectly coordinated. I became so worried that my darling child would look like her blind mother dressed her (which of course I did) that I'd agonize over whether the shade of purple in her leggings complimented the the polka dots on her onesie. If Josh or some other well-meaning person, pointed out that they didn't I would immediately burst into tears. I would also get all panicky when Josh would dress her, (as the practical and sane man he is) by just grabbing the first clean top and first clean bottom he could find. I was well aware that in the grand scheme of things it didn't matter if she wore a red onesie with gray sweatpants, but that didn't stop me begging for him to change her when he did.
Seriously, how could I protest this cuteness?
Well, she is wearing pink socks with a red shirt!
Visual impairments and blindness can often be an invisible disability. To the outside world. This fear that I would be "found out" by the clothing my daughter was wearing was irrational but pervasive. I was terrified that my limited vision made me  less of a mother, less of a woman, less of a human. I needed people to have proof that even though I struggled I could still pull it together enough to make sure my kids socks matched her T-shirt. I've had enough therapy to realize how ridiculous that last statement sounds, but it doesn't change the fact that my anxiety and fear were real at the time. I was so busy judging myself that I couldn't possibly handle the judgement of another human being. Clothing was something I could control. And control I did.

But as all children are wont to do, Emy grew up and started having opinions. Opinions on everything, but especially on what was put on her body. Around 10 or 11 months old she began rejecting any article of clothing that didn't allow her to access her belly button, and it spiraled from there. Bathing suits in subzero temperatures, snow gear in the summer, Spiderman t-shirts with pink leggings, I lost all control. Her exertion of her own ability to choose what she wears was fierce and I had to let go of the neurosis of coordinating outfits and quickly.

May 2013 - pajamas and snow gear. Why not?

It is so important for me that my daughter feel confident and happy in her skin and in her clothing. This is far more important than any anxiety I may feel about being labeled as a blind mom. As she grew I frequently would offer her two choices - both ones that didn't make my palms sweat. That worked for a while, but now that she is 4, Emy is pretty much in charge of what she wears. Getting dressed is her job. Yes, she needs to be dressed appropriately for the occasion of the day. And there are days, like today, when she tries to leave the house in a snow hat and mittens (which color-coordinated perfectly with her outfit by the way) on an 80 degree day, that I need to step in and say something. Otherwise I let it go. She is learning what clothes are acceptable for school and what outfits are better for play time.
I relish her independence and applaud her creativity. She feels such joy and pride in her choices and nothing could make me prouder to be her mom.
This was the outfit she decided on for the park today - June 26, 2014, minus the
snow hat and mittens.

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