After a big shopping trip to stock the pantry, my daughter Sarah and I sat on the kitchen floor one Saturday afternoon marking canned goods in braille. I felt overwhelmed by the dozens of cans that needed to be labeled and put away, which led to a few sharp jabs from my conscience. My little girl was stuck doing a boring job while her friends were probably outside playing because her blind mom couldn’t see the labels on the canned goods in her own kitchen.
Sarah soon put an end to my internal guilt trip. As I punched out sticky tapes with my braille label maker, she made a long line of cans across the floor.
“Next!” she said in her best nurse’s voice. “Hello, Tomato Soup. The doctor will see you now. Wow, you’ve got a dent! What happened?”
“Food fight,” Tomato Soup answered in a gruff, deep tone.
Sarah took the label from me, peeled off the adhesive back, pressed it on the can, and scolded, “Really, a food fight? You need a Band-Aid. There it goes, right across that dent. Behave yourself, okay?”
She put the can on the counter and called briskly, “Next! Chili Beans … how are you today? No salt added … you need to work on your diet, don’t you?”
I started making the label.
“Next! Baked Sweet Potatoes … are you half baked or all done?”
And so it went. We giggled and worked and had such a good time, the job was finished before we knew it. All it took to turn a chore into a fun game was a child’s vivid imagination and a generous helping of laughter.
Labeling those cans for my pantry has become one of my most treasured memories from Sarah’s school age years. I learned two important lessons from the time we spent together. The first is, no guilt. Families have different needs, and children pitch in where their talents fit. If that means my kid reads labels so I can mark cans after we go shopping, so be it. And if she can make the job fun and interesting, so much the better.
The second and most important lesson I learned is, blind or sighted, enjoy the spontaneous moments with your child as they come along. You can’t plan them, you can’t create them, you can’t predict when they will happen. But you can soak them up and squeeze every drop of joy out of them when you find yourself in the midst of them, and treasure the memory of them afterward.