Parenting: Blind mum keeps her kids in order
Every Monday for a month, our guest bloggers will be talking about disability and parenting. Each post will focus on one aspect of the job.
First up, blind mum of two, Amie Slavin, writes about the importance of discipline.
Last week I caught a train with my guide dog in harness, accompanied by both my daughters who, aged 5 and 3, could be considered nightmare travelling companions for a blind person.
I was gratified by the positive reaction to our little combo from the staff member who saw us to our train. Guiding me from the right side, he looked over his shoulder and witnessed my younger daughter holding my hand, with which I also hold the dog's lead; she was squishing herself merrily into the teeny gap between dog and mummy handler. He would have also seen that my older child was tucked in behind, holding her little sister's other hand.
"That's good," commented my assistant.
"Like those ducks people put on their walls, aren't they?" I quipped, feebly.
"Really good," he said quietly.
I don't think he was expressing admiration for my woeful gag. I'm guessing that he had realised that parenting without eyesight can make for higher, not lower, standards of public behaviour.
I say public because, I'm pleased to report, my kids can be monsters at home. They push the boundaries with me and the grown-up world in general, not to mention each other. They brawl enthusiastically, in the manner of children the world over, joining together in a split second when fate deals them a grown-up to outwit - sighted or otherwise.
When we're out and about, thankfully they act like the product of much careful thought and training.
As I can't see, my main parenting tool is my intelligence. I know my kids inside out and can usually deduce when they're misbehaving. They have both been known to come running in frustration, when disciplined from 2 rooms away: "But how did you know I was going to do that, Mummy?"
Along with this psychic mum thing, I have always figured that babies can comprehend language long before they become verbal.
If it's the case that grown-ups can understand a foreign language before being able to speak it fluently, surely the same must apply to babies learning their mother-tongue. So, I've been expecting responsiveness to verbal communication and command since well before my kids were able to speak.
It really pays off. Wherever my daughters go, people comment on their good behaviour and sociability. That's in comparison with their peers, not just: "considering they have a blind mother".
I can't convey them through the rush-hour in a Chelsea Tractor, but I can equip them to make friends and do themselves credit.
My recommended online reading:
As a blind person and disabled mum, I often find myself reading and identifying with blog posts about discrimination. Here, Penny Red blogs about her attendance at the recent England Defence League march in London.
This New York Times blog post about exercise as a stress reducer chimes well with my thoughts on maintaining fitness levels. For me keeping in shape and looking good means people are forced to rethink their image of a blind woman. It opens up the world of fashion to me, massively boosts my confidence and, just by the way, makes it a ton easier getting help when I need it; 'sad' perhaps, but entirely true.
• Amie Slavin is a sound artist, currently working on a commission for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Learn more about her work at roughdiamondproductions.com