Someone once told me that when you become a parent it completely changes your life. Oh how right they were! I would also argue that when you lose your sight it completely changes your life. So, combine these two major moments in my life and you come up with one interesting situation. I am a blind parent.
Ok, that sounds a bit dramatic, I know. The reality is that I am a parent who happens not to be able to see very well. Other than that, it's pretty much status quo over here. But, obviously, the whole “visually impaired” thing does affect me and my family, especially when it comes to parenting. So, I thought I would walk you thought a few of those things today in hopes of encouraging you if you are facing similar things in your own life.
One thing first…
My ability to unconditionally love my children is not affect at all by my sight loss. My ability to cheer them on, share their struggles, encourage them, support them and help them to be the best versions of temselves in the future is not altered by the fact that I cannot see all that well. It is true what they say…it is what is on the inside that counts. And, that “inside” stuff is not shoved down by my sight loss.
Now, on with the show…
Let's get this one out of the way right off the bat. Everyone brings this up when they discuss what they miss about not being sighted. Or, what they would miss had they been sighted at some point. Not being able to drive sucks. There's no way around it. The ability to hop in the car and go somewhere on a whim is irreplaceable. But, it doesn't stop there. Not being able to take my kids to extracurricular activities is very difficult. When my kids have scouts, dance or some other event, they now ask me, “Who is picking us up tonight?” They have no malice in mind when they ask this, but it sure does hurt my heart. I'm not mad at them. I'm mad at the situation.
It makes it difficult to travel also. If we go somewhere that is multiple hours away, it is my wife who does the entirety of the driving. No switching off. No taking turns. None of that stuff that fully sighted people could do. Now, we have learned to adapt and such, but it is still annoying and frustrating.
It is probably the thing that comes up the most when we discuss want is most bothersome about my sight loss. If I could only drive it would help out in so many ways. My wife wouldn't have to take the kids everywhere nor be responsible for every event they have. Plus, I could have some alone time with the kids as well. Services like Uber really help, but it sure doesn't take the place of sitting behind the wheel and jamming out to some classic rock with your kids.
In the end, as we say, it is what it si. And what it is..is crappy. But, such is life and we deal with it. (Sorry this section doesn't have a better ending. I'l keep working on that..)
My wife is a nurse and works 12 hour shifts. This means that when she is working, all the household stuff is up to me. And, this includes dinner. Now, I will say that I have gotten pretty good in the kitchen. I make quite a few different things now and actually enjoy the process…sometimes. But, when you can't see well it can limit what you can do.
For example, grilling isn't the easiest ting in the world. It's not impossible, but certainly not easy. Why? Well, when you grill, most of the time anyway, to determine if something is done, you need to “eyeball it.” This just means you look at it to figure out if it is ready to eat or is going to kill your family via salmonella poisoning. As you can imagine, this is hard when you can't see.
Preparation can be another struggle. Again, not impossible by any means. However, you are talking to someone who has cut his finger with a mandolin slicer. (This involved a trip to the emergency room, but we'll save that story for another time…) Cuting vegetables, searing meat, and measuring items can all be a bit tricky with lower than perfect sight.
Now, like I said, these tings aren't impossible. But, I have found that my family eats a lot of the same thing when I am cooking. But, at least I haven't given us a deadly disease…yet…
First of all, let me say I'm glad my wife is smart. My kids are still in elementary school at this point, but God help me when they get older. I'm pretty good with English (despite all the typos I'm sure you are finding in the post). But, when it comes to Math, Science and…well..pretty much anything else, I'm not that great. That really has noting to do with my sight issues. But I just thought I would share that with you!
Homework can be challenging at times, especially when it is very visual, like Math. But, often times, I can help them with a variety of issues. For example, I take a picture on my smartphone of their spelling words so I can give them out. I also keep a white board around to write down Math problems or graphs so I can see them. There are also things like magnifiers that can make it easier too. Plus, with the digital age we live in, many things are accessible via the computer and great internet connection.
Projects can be tricky at times for me. I am creative enough to come up with ideas and ways to do them. But, the practical part of it is where I start to have trouble. Think about a diorama. Shoving small things into a small space is not exactly meant for someone with vision impairment. Or how about a solar system model? Painting styrofoam balls a vareity of colors to make them look like planets doesn't exactly fall into my area of expertise. (Not that it would even if I could see.) And don't even get me started with an erupting volcano.
All in all, though, things like homework aren't too bad. With the way technology is now, it is much easier for blind parents like me to stay involved.
Sports and Games
My son loves soccer. At least right now he does. Check with me in a couple of months for the newest passion. But, he enjoys going out into the year and kicking the ball around. He likes playing goalie as well and wants me to kick it to him so he can practice blocking it. For the most part, this isn't too bad. We have a ball that has enough contrast to see against the grass. We are moving super fast so I don't lose the balll or something. He and I can kick it back and forth. I may just have to have it come to me and then walk over a few steps to get it. So, yeah, soccer isn't to bad.
But, when it comes to things like baseball or basketball, it gets a little more hairy. There's no feeling like having your son yell “Catch!” and then waiting for a ball to hit you in the face. I've never ducked and covered so quickly. But, that is one of the issues of being a blind dad. No catch with my son. I'm not extremely athletic mind you, but playing catch is sort of a right of passage. But my son had to experience this with my wife. Don't get me wrong…she has a good arm But, I think you know what I mean.
Other tings like board games and card games can be hard too. I do have a nice deck of cards with big numbers and letters wh can use, so that is helpful. But, things like Monopoly and Candyland present their own problems. My kids have just learned to move my piece around the board after I roll the dice. Or, they will automatically read the card for me in certain games. It's not bad, but it is annoying from my perspective. But, they at least have learned to adapt to it well.
The nice ting is that things like tickle fights and name that tune don't require a lot of vision. So, playing games with my kids and having fun with my kids aren't always the same thing.
It's My Responsibility
One thing about being a blind parent is how other people view you. They sometimes feel that you need tons of help and they will freely offer that help even if you didn't ask for it. I appreciate my friends and family who are willing to help, don't get me wrong. But, it can, at times, feel ike people view me as helpless. This couldn't be farther from the truth. I am as capable a parent as anyone else. Sure, I have to have help with certain things, but my parenting is not stunted in any way. My kids know I am their dad and blindness doesn't change that.
That brings up another good point. I am the dad in our relationship. I am the adult. I'm the one who is responsible for them not the other way around. Now, I will say that my kids are amazing in their own right. For example, my young daughter has taken to telling me when there is a step up or down coming in front of me. I have never asked her to do that nor expected her to do that. She just has become aware and decided to help when she can. My son will often times describe things to me that he would not describe the same way to my wife. He gives more detail when sharing stories from school. He doesn't realize he does it, but it is there none the less. Bear in mind that I never expect my kids to be my “keeper.” They might help me around the house or show me where something is, but no more than they would for my wife. We expect them to be responsible, respectful people regardless if I can see well or not. And, we also expect them to be kids and enjoy their childhood whether I can see or not. This is important to keep in mind. They are kids first. In fact, to me, they will probably always be kids.
Focused on Family
I hope I haven't made it seem like being a blind parent is terrible. It is not. Well, no more terrible than being a sighted parent anyway! There are great days and there are hard days. But, I have found that these ups and downs are far less about my sight issues and far more about me just being a parent. The highs and lows we experience are from report cards, play dates, vacations, forgotten chores, accounts and all the other tings that go along with being a family. I doubt my kids will look back and think, “If only my dad hadn't been blind…” Now, I might think that from time to time, but the way we I've our lives just isn't focused around my sight loss. It is focused around us, our love for one another and enjoyment of who we are as a family.
So, there's a little peek into my life as s blind parent. It's actually somewhat boring from my perspective. But, maybe you have found it interesting. IF so, I'd love to hear your story. Share some thoughts in the comments below!