Note to a Local Convenience Store Clerk
by Jo Elizabeth Pinto
If I seemed brusque with you when I bought my daughter a Slurpee® and left the store a while ago, it was because I didn’t want to open up on you with both barrels and ruin your day and mine. I knew if I stayed at the counter and finished our conversation in person, that’s exactly what would have happened.
“You take such good care of your mom, don’t you?”
How many times have I heard those seemingly innocent words that fell from your lips as I handed over two dollars so my kid could have a frozen treat and you gave me back a few coins in change? I suppose in your mind, the overly sweet way you spoke to my daughter as you dismissed me altogether made perfect sense.
“Actually, I take care of her,” I answered pleasantly. “She’s my child.”
“Well, I know, but… but she must help you so much.”
“I do help my mom,” my little girl said in a slightly defensive tone.
“Of course you do,” the clerk told her. “She can’t see.”
I pocketed my change and the loyalty card that will let me get my little girl a free Slurpee® on our next visit and turned toward the door. “We better be going. It’ll be dark soon.”
My daughter does help me out a lot. Why would she not? She’s a contributing member of the family and old enough to take on age-appropriate responsibilities.
That being said, she can be as temperamental, flighty, and chore-averse as the next kid. She’s no saint because she has a blind mom, nor would I expect her to be. Sometimes she rises to the challenge; sometimes she flops on the couch and watches YouTube videos as avidly as any other American preteen with a tech habit.
So let’s shatter a myth right now. The children of disabled parents aren’t their personal care attendants or their servants. They’re kids, as they ought to be. Parents with disabilities don’t procreate because they need future little helpers to take care of them. In fact–and this will be obvious to those who think it through–kids create work. Wonderful though they are, children add immense amounts of responsibility and effort to life; they don’t make life easier. More amazing, meaningful, and worth living in every way, definitely—but easier, hardly.
So, store clerk, it was nice shooting the breeze. But maybe next time, let’s chat about the weather or the merits and drawbacks–mostly drawbacks, I think–of the scorpion lollipops on display at the counter. Parenting and family life topics really are beyond the scope of appropriate small talk, the same as they would be with able-bodied customers who drift through your checkout line purchasing burritos and cigarettes. Have a great night.
A Blind Mom
About the Author
Jo Elizabeth Pinto was among the first blind students to integrate the public schools in the 1970’s. In 1992, she received a degree in Human Services from the University of Northern Colorado. While teaching students how to use adaptive technology, she earned a second degree in 2004 from the Metropolitan State College of Denver in Nonprofit Management. She freelances as an editor and a braille proofreader. As an author, Pinto entertains her readers while giving them food for thought. In her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, she draws on personal experience to illustrate that hope is always an action away. Pinto lives in Colorado with her husband, her preteen daughter, and their pets. Visit her website at https://www.brightsideauthor.com.