012: The Art of Parenting as a Visually Impaired Person

[Podcast] The Art of Parenting as a Visually Impaired Person - Episode 12

One of the most rewarding and challenging roles I play in life is that of dad to my two young children. I have been visually impaired the entire time I have been a parent, so I have a few years of experience doing this whole “blind parent” thing. While being a parent is challenging enough, throwing vision issues into the mix can provide its own challenges. Join me as I discuss ways I become an effective parent in the midst of sight loss.

News & Updates

1. Aipoly App Helps Describe Your World

The Aipoly app is a mobile app that will scan objects and tell the user what they are.

2. Blind Baseball Announcer Changing the Game

You wouldn't think that a blind person could be very affective at calling a baseball game. But, you would be wrong. A man named Bryce Weiler is changing the perception of that. He is calling games for the University of Illinois-Chicago as their stats person along side the play by play person. In a video which you can watch at the link above, he describes preparing for the game by looking up recent stats, speaking to the coaching staff and finding out info on every player. He might be considered an inspiration, but he is just another great example that being visually impaired doesn't stop anyone from living their dreams.

3. Visually Impaired People Going Extreme

For many people, activities like downhill skiing and surfing seem like very sight intensive sports. But, a gorep in California thinks differently. Offering camps for blind and visually impaired people, Extreme Mobility Games is providing opportunities for people with sight impairments to experience many of these amazing activities. They offer a variety of camps with various activities, such as  snowboarding, tubing and water skiing . This is a great place with a great purpose. Way to go X M O!

Parenting the Blind Way

I am the proud parent of two wonderful kids. They are unique, interesting, challenging and amazing people. I so enjoy the chance I have to raise them into amazing adults. It is a hard job but most rewarding. Yet, being visually impaired as a parent presents its own unique challenges. Whether you are parenting toddlers or teens, you are most likely running into some of these obstacles. Here are just a few signs that I face each day as a parent and how we have learned to deal with it in our family.

First Things First…

Though it is a given in my life, I feel like I need to say this up front. While I may mention at times that my kids help me with random things, like reading the back of mac and cheese boxes, they are in no way responsible for me as a parent. First, I have a sighed spouse. Secondly, I am an adult and they are children. Please understand that they are living a life as a child, not as a help maid to me. While I believe that all they things they will learn as children in helping me will help them be productive members of society and compassionate adults, I have not turned them into “mini butlers” or anything like that. They are kids first! PSa out of the way…

Transportation

It seems like these days, we are running everywhere. From soccer and ballet to scouts and dance class, kids are always in some sort of activity. While it is great that they get exposed to a variety of things, the reality is they have to get there. And, this can be challenging when you are visually impaired. My wife does all the driving for these types of activities. If she isn't working, she is driving. But, she is sometimes working, which means I have to take them. This usually involves help from friends, taking a walk or possibly even an Uber if convenient.

The actual not being able to drive is hard enough. But, when your kids ask, “Who's picking me up today?” it can make you sad. It also sucks when you plan to walk somewhere and it starts pouring. Yes, my kids have learned to adapt to the things, but it still doesn't feel great.

At the end of the day, you just do what you have to in these situations. You make plans. You call friends. You go on a walk. And, you take your umbrella just in case!

Education

I'll be the first to admit I'm scared for my kids to get older. There are the obvious reasons like them growing up and moving on. But, I'm also scared of not being able to do their Math homework. Putting that fear aside, the practicality of helping kids learn can be challenging as a visually impaired person. With homework assignments, spelling words and school projects, kids have a lot to do. And, they need a lot of help and encouragement. I am lucky that my wife is smart in math and science as I can hold up the English and history side. But, again, it's all about the practical part of helping.

I've got a video below that gives a couple tips on helping with homework. But, basically, you figure out the best way to help and then do it. I wish it were more complicated, but it's not. Just find ways that work for you and your family. The most important part is to stay involved. Even if you can't read the book, you can be there for the story.

Nutrition

I like to cook. Well, I like to eat. Cooking is just a means to an end. And, since my wife works longer hours than some, I get to make dinner on a very regular basis. We have gotten into a groove over the years and I make quite a few things now. It was interesting to say the least when we first started. But, after some practice (and the purchase of my Nuwave Oven) I can cook a lot of things.

The trick here is learning what you can and can't make. If you have a sighted spouse, let them handle some of the things. If you don't or you are single. just make whatever you can. Don't freak out about having to make a though sand different things. Sure, having mac and cheese every night isn't ideal. But, you don't have to cook three course meals. And, as your kids get older, they would probably enjoy helping out.

Remember that certain tasks, like cutting up vegetables, can be done, but just be careful. No one likes blood in their california blend. And, take a chance on a new recipe. You can always order a pizza if it turns out horrible!

Outdoor Adventures

We have always told our kids that paling outside is great. And, for whatever reason, they have bought it. They love to ride their bikes, play at the park and kick around the soccer ball. While I am certainly not an outdoors person, I do love my kids. So, I enjoy getting out there with them. Having less than stellar sight, however, can present some quirks with this.

For example, there's nothing quite as scary as something throwing a football towards you. And, riding a bike, while very doable, can get hairy at times. But, many activities can be adapted for us VIPs. Whether it is at home or at a park, you can have a great time with the kids.

One thing to remember here is that if you are at a public place, you might want to come up with a way for your kids to check in. Mine have just gotten used to giving a verbal response when I call their name. Some parents use bells on the shoes while others just have their kids come back every so often. Again…find what works and do it!

Watch Me, Daddy!

My kids love to show me what they are doing. Whether it is a picture they drew or a game they are playing, the phase “watch this” comes up a lot. Unfortunately, that is one thing I have trouble with. I think the best thing to do is be honest with them and let them know what you can and can't see. You don't have to berate them with a reminder of your vision loss. But, helping them understand thwtat they can do to make it easier might help.

For example, my son will tell me where to stand so I have the best view of his activity. Or, my daughter will start describing the picture she colored before I even ask. It's something they have just grown up with, so it makes sense.

Alos, don't be afraid, especially if your kids are young, to nod and give lots of praise even if you can't see it. Sometimes, that's all they are really looking for anyway.

The Heart of Parenting

I've listed a few things that my children and I have adapted to over the years. But, at the end of the day, when they are just sitting on the couch telling me about what happened at school or we are eating dinner having a conversation about how salty the meat is, sight loss isn't really an issue. Things like compassion, love, grace, kindness, understanding, empathy, wisdom and all the other things it takes to be a parent are sight intensive. In fact, they don't require sight at al. So, your effectiveness as a parent is diminished with your sight loss.

My tip of the day: love your kids. The rest will take care of itself.

Real Life Retweet

Sight Loss Coaching

Are you someone who has recently lost their sight? Maybe you have a family member going through sight loss? I'm sure you have aton of questions, fears, thought and emotions you are struggling with. I'd loe to help you process through all of those things and walk you through this transition. If you are interested in starting a coaching relationship, please contact me for more information. My best to you!