by Anneliese Knop | Anneliese is a counselor who’s primarily worked with children and teens. She’s blind AND an experienced babysitter and childcare provider.
Would you trust your children to a blind babysitter?
That’s a bad question. It puts moral weight on a mother’s legitimate concerns, and sets up the answerer to fail, pretty much no matter how they answer. You might get judged for risking your kids, or for being closed-minded and discriminating. So, let’s try a better question.
What kind of strengths does a blind babysitter bring into your home?
Hi there, my name is Anneliese Knop. I’m a counselor who’s worked primarily with children and teens. I’m also blind, and an experienced babysitter and childcare provider. I hit upon this topic for a blog post when a friend challenged me to write about how my disability intersected with my faith, and I wrote this post on her blog. It is highly ironic that some of the women who subtly told me I shouldn’t be a mother because I was blind, also paid me regularly to watch over their children.
I could spend the next 800 words or so knocking down every logistical concern a parent might have about hiring a blind babysitter, and maybe I’ll do that someday. But today I’d like to try taking a strengths-based approach to inclusivity in the childcare industry, rather than a problems-focused approach. To that end, here are three benefits a blind babysitter brings to the table you might not have thought about.
A blind caretaker can model the confidence needed to overcome challenges and creatively solve problems.
Children have lots of adult role models in their lives. Teachers, parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and coaches abound. Most of the time, however, these adults go out of their way to shield their young witnesses from grown-up challenges. They might be aware that Daddy’s hurt his back, but never told about their 3rdgrade teacher’s depression. They’re rarely asked to imagine or observe, someone learning to overcome life’s practical challenges on a regular basis.
Your blind babysitter displays this every time she walks in the door. She’s a visible example of how life’s unfairness can be hard, but not a barrier. When she uses her phone to read aloud the instructions on a box of Mac & Cheese, or helps them organize the DVDs alphabetically so she can pick out movies for them she’s not only demonstrating how people overcome disabilities but how to ask for and receive help. Someone they trust, shows them it’s safe to reach out, and that’s a lesson you can’t put a price on.
Your blind babysitter shows your little ones how many different ways there are to access information, not just through their eyes. She teaches them to value all of their senses, which can open their ears and noses and fingertips and tongues to a richer, fuller world. And she does all this while challenging the concept of “I can’t do it.” Imagine what it could be like to grow up with someone showing you that you could do anything, not just telling you.
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You can model the ideology of inclusivity and universal human value for your children.
We all want the next generation to grow up with better values than the ones they see in our chaotic, strife-filled world right now. Most of us would also declare that a person with a disability with equal education and experience ought to be given equal consideration for most any job. But choosing to believe that, because it reflects the universal value of human life and growing up with living examples of inclusivity, are two different things.
If there’s a blind young man or woman you know who can fix meals, run a bath, ride herd on reluctant homework sessions, and keep on a schedule, why not show your children what it truly means to live in a fully integrated world where everyone is given a chance to prove themselves? As they grow, they’ll seek out a broader range of friends, work under and hire people of all backgrounds, and never miss out on a new idea or unique approach because of prejudice.
Blind people tend to be more alert to risks and problems.
On a purely practical note, how many times have you cut your finger while chopping vegetables? Burned yourself on the edge of a baking dish? Discovered a nasty organic surprise in your child’s room weeks after it had attained sentience? Woke up in a sweat wondering if you’d miss the sound of your baby choking despite hugging the baby monitor all night just in case?
You trust your eyes but not your other senses. I’m quite the opposite. I have NEVER cut myself while chopping vegetables because I know I can’t see the blade or my fingers. I’m patient and methodical. I smell smoke and mold, ages before anyone else I know. And I sleep soundly, knowing any untoward sound will register in my audio-tuned brain. I am alert, and I trust all of my senses.
Your blind babysitter brings these unique superpowers into your home. Because he’s been told all his life he might miss important signals, he’ll always been on the lookout for your children’s welfare.
One of the contributors to discouragement, depression, and anxiety in both children and adults is a problems-based approach to life. We ask “How can you compensate?” of people with disabilities, and we ask the same questions of ourselves, and our children. The alternative is a strengths-based approach to life. We begin asking questions like, “How can I learn from your unique approach?”, “What strengths do I bring to the table?”, and “How many different ways are there to solve a problem?”
If you like what you’ve seen here, feel free to check out my other articles at Look on the Dark Side. This is where I, your favorite blindfluencer, let you see life from the perspective of a blind woman with a service dog, spiced with mental health tips for humans and canines alike.
If we asked better questions, we could change the world.
Anneliese Knop, Author
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