Picture this: A nine-year-old girl who, after undergoing more than 10 operations only to lose the vision in her left eye, finds out she has a cataract in her right eye. She will have to either relive the horrid experience all over again or accept the fact that she will be blind in a few years. As if that wasn’t traumatic enough, now imagine that the same little girl is told, by a less-than-well-meaning stranger, that her mother is currently exploring the idea of sending her away to a “blind school” where she will have to live, away from her family and friends. I was that little girl. After learning of my mother’s supposed plans, I approached her, broke down, and begged her not to send me away. I promised to be the best little girl I could be. My mom held me close and assured me that she had no plans to send me anywhere. Instead, little did I know, she had been meeting with staff of the Vision Resource Department at the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) to discuss how I might best be supported in a mainstream school environment.
In honour of Mother’s Day, I thought I would share a little bit about the role that my mom has played in helping me become the happy, independent woman that I am today. Although I can appreciate and acknowledge, the benefits of a residential school, I do not believe it would have been the best option for me. I am ever so grateful that my mom knew me well enough to see that. I received phenomenal support from the Vision Resource Itinerants at the YRDSB, and was able to successfully complete high school before heading off to university and graduate school. I sometimes wonder how my mom made it through those years: the anxiety she must have felt when she first allowed me to use my cane and walk to school on my own; the fear she had to have experienced when I told her I was going to travel to the United States to get my first guide dog and the horror she most likely endured when I informed her that I would be moving to Ottawa for school. Despite what I can only imagine was a roller coaster of maternal emotion, my mom did the best possible thing she could for me: She permitted, supported and even encouraged each of those decisions. She was what psychologist Donald Winnicott has termed, “the good enough mother.”
Dr. Winnicott has argued that babies and children benefit a great deal from instances when their mothers “fail” them. They need experiences to learn that life can be hard, that they will feel let down and disappointed, that they won't always get their way, and despite all of that -or perhaps because of it- they will still be okay. He believes that if children never have these experiences, and if their every need is met every time, they will lack the ability to manage the challenges that will inevitably arise later in life. In short, perhaps building children's resilience is the gift of the “good enough” mother.
Today, I thank my mom, and all the moms out there who have been (or will be) brave enough to put aside their fears to be the “good enough” mothers that their children need and build our resilience in the process.
Thank you for sharing your story, Arshina. To read more from Arshina, click here.
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