Welcome to the Team Avery Website!

In the spring of 2008 my then 19-month old daughter Avery lost most of her sight to congenital cataracts.
The Delta Gamma Center for Visual Impairments in St. Louis was there for our family in our greatest time of need; teaching us how to alter our lives to incorporate a visually impaired child. To help them continue helping other families like us, we have formed Team Avery/ Team Margaret. ***To read about Avery's story, go to the Archives and visit Blog "Avery's Story" from January 24th, 2010.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fitting In

I’ve never really fit in.  As much as I would like to chalk it up to moving roughly every 5 years since I can remember, I’m pretty sure my personality is as much to blame as my nomadic childhood.  Let’s face it, I’m just goofy. Kind of skinny, very shy, plain, and inherently nerdy. Those characteristics - combined with the adolescent penchant for teasing -made for a lot of humiliating moments growing up. (Note: my mom did NOT help this by telling me once to “share a song” for Show-N-Tell.  I’ll never live down Eric Dunhowr making fun of my “ugly voice and stupid rainbow song.” Thanks, Mom!) Imagine my awkwardness in trying to transition to a new school or town every few years. (Oh, did I mention my perm? And the braces I wore for four years?)  Forget it.  People say I’m a “loner”…I just learned to be content by myself. It wasn’t a choice as much as a habit that formed over time.  Don’t think I didn’t try to change myself every which way to fit in.

Now that I’m thirty-three, I’ve come to terms with my idiosyncrasies.  Still, for most of my life I’ve felt I was on the outside looking in.  I always envied the girls who were surrounded by friends; the kids who had lived in the same house their whole life; the people who had a best friend they had known since preschool.  I just wanted to have that feeling of “belonging,” that I was a part of the gang. Now I’m sure that I probably had things that other people wanted (Like my awesome perm. Seriously, Mom, were you TRYING to torture me?!).  But for some reason, fitting in was that ONE thing I really longed for, yet never had.

When the ultrasound revealed that the 18-week fetus I was carrying was going to be a girl, I was beyond excited.  There are no words I can use to describe the happiness I felt knowing I was going to have a baby girl…I still remember that day, like a hundred Christmas Days wrapped up with my wedding. When Avery was born I couldn’t believe how beautiful she was.  All 5 lbs 14 oz of her was sweet smelling and baby-soft, perfection from her fingers to her toes.  I stared at her and immediately believed in miracles.  From then on, I wanted only the best for Avery.  I wanted to make sure she never hurt, never felt pain.  I promised my baby that she would never want for anything.  And I prayed that, unlike her mother, wherever Avery went she would always fit in.

After two days of parenting, it was clear that I was not going to be able to spare my child hurt or pain.  And frankly, sometimes Avery’s attitude makes me so mad that I take away her 16th birthday car… thirteen years before her actual 16th birthday.  However, I do my best to make sure she never wants: for hugs, kisses, love, or attention.

When Avery was diagnosed with cataracts, it became immediately obvious that “fitting in” was probably never going to happen for her. When she got her first pair of cataract glasses both my husband and I cried.  Although we were ecstatic that Avery had regained some sight, it was obvious to everyone who looked at our daughter’s thick lenses that she had a disability.  Brian and I spent many nights in tears when we imagined the struggle our little girl was going to have trying to belong.

Our fears were not unfounded. People have called our now 3-year old “retarded,” “special,” “different,” and “big-eyed” based solely on her appearance.  Many rude comments have been made in Avery's presence, as if her lack of vision also translates into a lack of hearing. I physically ache when I imagine what kind of cutting remarks severely disabled people must endure, because the things said about my daughter have made my hair stand on edge. My husband and I seriously considered getting Avery contacts (yes, even infants can wear them) to help spare her some of the offensive remarks.  Even five-year olds can be surprisingly mean.

It was in a doctor’s office today that I realized something.  I was watching Avery be Avery: jumping on and off the exam table as fast as she could while babbling about the Disney Princesses.  Every nurse that came by was made to admire Avery’s favorite Baby Lulu tutu, which is pink netting with tons of silver sequins (visually she is very attracted to sparkles - her wardrobe looks like “Dancing with the Stars”). I’m sure Cardinal Glennon wasn’t expecting the extravagant dancing performance they received today.  I sat back, exhausted by my girl’s energy, and then it hit me. I’ve had it wrong all along. 

Avery goes about her life completely comfortable in her skin, as happy as any little girl you’ve ever seen.  Thick glasses, medical issues and odd behavior don't limit Avery. She lets her personality shine through; her quirks make her beautiful. Cutting comments from ignorant people might make her pause, but they never stop her from being herself. You’ve heard me refer to Avery as our “Firecracker.”  What a shame it would be to dampen that bright light!

 I think the best thing I can do as her mother is to keep fostering her already strong sense of self…and not direct her to change her idiosyncrasies just to belong. Think about how much more fun high school would be, knowing what we all know now...that we are happiest just being ourselves.  I would love for my daughter to go through life having grasped that concept early.


Isn’t it amazing when a 3-year old teaches you something about life?