I found yet another article promoting high expectations of blind children and this time it made me wonder what it is that I’m terribly mistaken about in my situation. The main reasons why I’m wondering about this are that this article has not been written by an NFB folk, or if it is, has not been published in an NFB-sponsored publication, and secondly my slow realization over the last month (since I returned from rehab) that I’m often projecting my own ideas with regard to expectatiosn upon others, mainly my parents. Does that mean that my parents didn’t have high expectations for me? But then what does that feeling about expectations come from? The thing that I’ve come to think is that it’s *my* expectations that I’m attributing to others. But in this “expectation equals outcome” mindset, does it matter whether it’s someone else holding the expectation or it’s the person herself, especially if she thinks it’s someone else? I mean, I’ve always been convinced that I could achieve as much as another person my age, and so have my parents – at least, that’s what I think -, yet here is another article stating that if parents “get high” about their children, these children will become independent and confident.
The stuff about high hopes especially bothers me. It’s the most noticeable component in my parents’ attitude about me. My parents never let an occasion go by to express their hopes (I translate expectations) for my achievement in academics, independence, and just about everything. When I was nine, I knew beyond doubt that I would have to move out on my own at age eighteen. Yes, would *have to*, and the next memory I get is that fear which I felt and the relief as I calculated that I still had another nine years. When I was eight or nine, at the St. Nicholas celebration at my Mum’s job, St. Nicholas asked who did not want to grow up, and I was the only one. Is this normal childhood insecurity, or what? And if it’s something else – that has been extremely pervasive over all these years -, what’s its relation to “raising the bar” for me?
In virtually any article about high expectations, over-protection etc., it is assumed that parents don’t genuinely believe in their blind children and that this is at the root of their lowered hopes/expectations (either consciously or subconsciously communicated), which will lead to their children’s low performance. Both the first and the second assumption I have always disagreed with when it came to my parents, but I sometimes think that the second is truer than I want to admit. Not when I was young, but at least for the last couple of years, my parents have had lowered short-term expectations of me. I remember last year my parents discussing going on holiday together, and saying they couldn’t go when I was home and Sigrid was not cause I couldn’t care for myself and the cat (Mum mentioned the cat as I tried to reassure her that I could care for myself, but caring for the cat is pretty easy). At eighteen! That magical age when I would have to move out on my own, according to the 1995 plan! No, my parents didn’t expect me to be a normal person my age, over these last years. But they did before, and furthermore their lack of short-term expectations (probably also partly cause they found it was my responsibility, since Sigrid doesn’t have chores either), did nothing to their high hopes.
What I’m also having trouble with in admitting that my parents haven’t expected me to be age-appropriate over the last few years, is that “she can’t” philosophy that seems to be behind it, which is most certainly not as my parents think. Rather, they tell me they can’t teach me daily living skills. It’s nothing to do with their not thinking I’m capable or their feeling I need a caretaker, that they don’t expect me to do daily living skills, but rather that they can’t show me how to do them, at least that’s what they say. I still don’t know if that’s something of my parents’ – eg. that they don’t want to invest the time and energy into showing me how to do something, or that they don’t know about the alternative techniques blind people use – or some problem of mine, like there being something that prevents me from being able to pick up things the way another child would pick them up. But one thing I know is that my parents never, ever thought I was incapable. They have always had high hopes – to the point of totally troubling me the way they expressed them -, have had high expectations at least up till a couple of years ago, and as for high exposure: they’ve not feared putting me in “dangerous” situations anytime. I mean, I was allowed to go to Russia for four weeks without my parents when I was fourteen; I wonder if even the majrity of parents of sighted children would allow their children this experience (I was, notably, the youngest of the Dutch group, and the only blind person). My parents never forbade me to do things on my own that sighted children my age do, like going into town on my own. I never did it cause I didn’t know the way in the town centre and so I couldn’t find any shops, but if I had wanted to, my parents would surely have allowed me to. Is this something about expectations? I mean, should they’ve expected me to go into town on my own? But Sigrid usually went with friends also, and only very recently went completely alone. I had no friends to go with. So what? I don’t know.
I know that parents are sometimes afraid that their blind children will get hurt when they go places on their own. I know that parents worry about their sighted children, too, but that this is to a lesser extent. When we were living in Rotterdam, both Sigrid and I had restrictions with regard to where we were allowed to go: Sigrid was not allowed to walk to school alone cause she had to cross two main roads, and at least till nearly the end of our stay in Rotterdam we weren’t allowed to cross the street alongside our frondyard, which is a busy one, and I don’t remember anyone of our neighbourhood children crossing that road. Both of us could cross the street on the other side of our house to go to the playground. I know that at some point I didn’t dare to cross that street anymore. I can’t remember if my parents just left it that way or wanted me to cross the street. Mum’s always said that I’m too fearful and that I just need a good kick in the butt to get outside of my comfort zone. Why would she not have kicked me out of my comfort zone, if she always preached it? She most certainly did. But still, I’m feeling terribly restricted and I’m behind in all sorts of daily living skills. I so hope this is something of my thinking too little of my abilities or my capacity to learn. I feel my parents always pressured me to go out of my comfort zone, yet at some point they decided it was my responsibility. I know this. I mean, if a nineteen-year-old does not resemble a ten-year-old in some areas of independence, will expecting her to be a normal nineteen-year-old get her all the skills she’s lacking? My parents can now legally kick me out of the house – well, I think they are obligated to provide food and shelter till I’m 21, but that’s it -, and they’ve at times threatened to do so. Probably the “high expectations” gurus would applaud that, for it’s making clear that I can’t be dependent anymore. But I’m happy my parents dropped their rule that I could only live with them as long as I was in school/college, so I’m having this year to learn some new skills to be more independent.