Finding Our Blind Spot

When I was younger, pre-marriage, pre-kids, I would often imagine what type of parent I would end up becoming. In that total naivety you have pre-parenting, I would imagine that I would be the most patient, coolest Mum on the planet with a (tidy) houseful of kids whilst I looked fresh-faced, hair nice (no greys) and my children hanging on my every word of wisdom. Obviously the reality of parenting is a little bit different, I am fairly patient, I’m sometimes regarded as ‘cool’ when I buy the right sort of ice lollies, my house is full of 3 kids, my 8-year-old son and 5-year-old twins (boy/girl), my house is definitely not tidy and fresh-faced with nice hair is not something that comes naturally to me much these days! However, trying to pass on my words of wisdom to my children is something I strive to do, even if sometimes it is met with a roll of the eyes from my eldest! Children are such blank canvases and eager to learn about the world from their parents. My twins have the ability to break a Guinness world record for the amount of questions they ask on a daily basis from ‘why is the sky blue?’ to more weighty issues such as ‘how does Spiderman have a wee?’.

It is one of my ambitions as a parent to raise children that are well-mannered, open-minded, considerate and non-judgemental of others. And with this is in mind, I was extremely lucky to be invited by Mumsnet to attend the Sainsbury’s Active Kids Blind Football event. With the Paralympics just round the corner, Sainsbury’s have launched the million kids challenge which has enabled 2.4 million British children to play a Paralympic sport. And my eldest son and I were happy to join that statistic on Monday. We turned up at the venue, a little doorway under the railway arches in London, which in true Willy Wonka style, led into a huge indoor football centre housing individual Astroturf pitches for football games. We found our team of other enthusiastic volunteers and to my eldest’s disappointment no David Beckham. I had tried to explain on the journey there that Mr Becks is quite a busy man and would probably find it difficult to fit it into his schedule. He soon forgot about Becks though as we were led into the changing room to receive football tops and blindfolds. The training session was run by the super patient and very amiable Gary Knight, who is the FA’s Blind Football coach and works with the Paralympics GB football squad and the England Blind Football team, so definitely knows his stuff!

The children once blindfolded, were led back onto the pitch in a scene reminiscent of the elephants from Jungle Book, each with their hand on the shoulder of the child in front. They were told to keep the blindfolds on so they could really experience the blindness that a blind footballer would be used to and they were all good sports listening intently to instructions and getting stuck in. Gary Knight led them through some simple training exercises by asking the adults to roll the ball to their feet and for the children to kick the ball back. I volunteered to help and was paired with a capable child who had to put up with me misfiring when I rolled it to him and really stretching his blind football abilities! Each ball makes a bell-like noise when it moves to help the player locate it and with the encouragement of talking to each other throughout the game, it really feels like a team sport where it is essential to instruct and help your team-mate.

As the children gained confidence in their newly visually impaired state, they were led through a game of penalty shoot-outs where they had to rely on their sense of hearing and concentration to gauge where the goal was in order to score. The winner of the shoot-out was awarded with a football shirt signed by David Beckham, so he was there in pen form if nothing else. My son came third in the shoot-out and in true Paralympic style, we awarded him Bronze position. The hardest part of the day was trying to drag my son home as he was enjoying himself so much. It was a fantastic experience for the children taking part and an important lesson in how fortunate they are to be able to take their blindfolds off at the end of the session. However, it also encourages the children to not see blind footballers as victims but as credible sports participants.

Next week, my eldest is attending the Paralympics with my parents. Before this event I bought the Paralympic tickets with the intention of showing my son how lucky we are and to be inspired by the sports people who have disabilities but are still capable of getting involved. Following the blind football event, I believe my son no longer has to see the athletes as less fortunate then him, but in fact extremely capable sports people. It was a truly inspirational experience. Thanks Mumsnet.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network, a group of parent bloggers picked by Mumsnet to review products, services, events and brands. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity

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