“Mommy, what’s a street walker?”
The question took me by surprise. I paused at the corner a block away from the school, ready to cross the street, with my guide dog’s harness in one hand and my second grader holding tightly to the other. The wind sent the dry autumn leaves scuttling around our feet.
“Well …” I thought fast. “A street walker is someone who …. Someone who goes around looking for trouble. Where did you hear that word? Anlyn, forward.”
My daughter Sarah trotted to keep up as we crossed the busy street. “A mean boy in my class called me a street walker because I have to walk places with you and Anlyn all the time instead of riding in a car. Everybody laughed at me. I wish you could drive like other moms.”
I bit back a chuckle, but the guilt was right on its heels, followed closely by doubts and misgivings. How would having a blind mom affect a child socially? All blind parents worry about it. All blind parents dread the day their child comes home with it for the first time—the teasing, the discomfort. But street walker? Seriously? Still, at least neither kid had known what the word meant. I mentally pushed my worries aside and dragged myself back to the moment at hand.
“Hmmm.” I said aloud as we turned left toward home. “If I drove like other moms, what would we miss?”
Sarah wasn’t sure at first, but before we made it to our house, we stopped to blow the seeds off some big white dandelions for good luck. We paused to sniff some pretty pink flowers growing by the sidewalk. Sarah picked up three white rocks, a handful of acorns, and a perfectly round pine cone for me to tuck into my jacket pocket.
“We’d miss our nature adventures,” she decided.
“Exactly,” I agreed. “Besides, you know your way around this half of the city better than any of your friends. They get in their parents’ cars and don’t pay attention to where they go. You’re my little navigator, aren’t you? Now, I’m going to call your teacher.”
“Mom, don’t! I’m not a tattletale!”
“Don’t worry. I was a kid once, too—a long time ago. I won’t ruin your reputation.”
Two mornings later, I went with my daughter to school. While the kids sat on the sharing rug, my guide dog lay sedately on the floor in front of them. For fifteen minutes or so, I told the class about service dogs and how they work for blind people—helping them navigate traffic, guiding them in and out of stores and restaurants, etc, and how they’re allowed to go anywhere the public can go.
“Wow, Sarah’s lucky!” one classmate breathed as the kids took turns petting Anlyn’s soft tan coat. “Her mom gets to take her dog everywhere!”
“So Sarah?” the teacher asked, in a question I had rehearsed a bit with her, “What’s it like to have a blind mom?”
“Well,” my little girl said, in an unrehearsed answer, “it’s like a regular mom, except Daddy won’t let her drive his car.”