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Spring 2000 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Ron Lucey, TCB Consumer Resources Coordinator

When asked to write about my experiences in being a parent with a vision impairment, I admit to having a real identity crisis. I had never thought of myself as anything but "Dada." My two-year-old daughter, Mary, was the first one to utter those wonderful syllables, and I was captured forever. William Charles, born in December, will add his own verbal version of my name to his vocabulary later this year. I can hardly wait. I'm holding on to Dada as long as possible. Too soon they will be calling me Dad by way of letting me know they are all grown up.

My experiences as a parent and the experiences of parents without visual limitations are more alike than they are different. My wife, Dixie, and I have all of the challenges other parents have. After Mary was born, Dixie and I chose to reschedule our lives so that our daughter could be at home rather than in full-time day care. Dixie stays at home during the week and works weekends at TSBVI. I work during the week and stay at home weekends. Evenings, Friday outings at Taco Cabana or Chuckie Cheese, and Sunday morning brunch are our favorite regular opportunities to reconnect as a family.

I can certainly attests to the fact that two children are more work than one! Mary was what we call an "easy baby." She slept through most the night and cried only on occasion. In contrast, William has a much stronger temperament and enjoys loudly expressing his opinions when we would prefer to be sleeping. The dull ache from a lack of uninterrupted sleep was my constant companion for a while. Also, having the support of the other parent while both children are crying and in need of simultaneous diaper change is ideal, but due to our opposite work schedules, this is an often elusive situation for Dixie and me.

One month after William was born, Dixie went out of town on business, leaving me alone for the first time with both children. The previous day, I had irrationally agreed to participate at home in an all-day telephone conference call as part of a work task force. I became a real life "Mr. Mom" from the movie of the same name. All day I had no time to shave or shower, and the flannel shirt I was wearing had served as a burping rag for my son's frequent bottle feedings. Buckets of dirty diapers, empty baby bottles, toys, and unwashed dishes littered the domestic landscape of our home like a scene from a Civil War battlefield. By midnight, when my wife returned from her trip, I had just finished returning our home to its previous state of order and domestic bliss. Eventually, the job of parenting became a little easier as I readjusted to meet the needs of two children.

During weekends before the birth of William, Mary and I often explored our quiet, shaded Allandale neighborhood with trips to Northwest Park's playground. We always ended our Saturday mornings at the local bakery for bagels, coffee and juice. All of these favorite activities were not impacted in the least by the fact that I am visually impaired and don't drive a car. Mary and I just wore out the rubber tires on our infant stroller more quickly than other families.

On occasional weekdays, Dixie has out-of-town business travel for a second part-time job. When this occurs, I muster my final reserves of patience to deal with public transportation. The use of taxicab vouchers allows me to take my daughter to her doctor's appointments and to her Mimi's house for occasional childcare. Mary is simply growing up with the notion that Mama drives the family car and I pay money to people who drive taxis. In her children's book she loves to point to the picture of a yellow taxi and say "Dada."

During reading time in our home, we all share in the bonding experience of a well-worn children's book. I have been fortunate that my daughter's favorite books are the "Spot" series by Eric Hill. The Spot books are rich with manipulative flaps that hide all of Spot's animal friends. The jumbo bold print is easy for me to read without a low vision device. I occasionally must use my hand-held magnifier to read the smaller print in other books. At first, this behavior confused my daughter, but she has come to accept it as part of the reading routine.

Throughout my day I use adaptive skills for parenting without consciously thinking about them. I can recall giving my son a bottle at 3:00 a.m. in near total darkness and placing my fingers along his chin and jaw line for proper bottle placement. When traveling on foot with my daughter through busy intersections, we wait through one cycle of traffic lights and cross safely with the next parallel traffic surge. When writing a check at the grocery store, I may fill out most of it beforehand with a CCTV and fill in the check amount with a low vision aid at the checkout counter. However, these minor adaptations do not change the fundamental essence of parenting.

Inevitably a person will question how a blind or visually impaired person can safely parent two young children. The safety and care of my children are always in the forefront of my mind. Although Dixie might be tempted to testify that I have compensated for my vision impairment with being overly safety conscious and attentive to minor details, I think my basic personality may be the stronger force behind my carefulness. We have what every parent should have, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and child safety devices. Reasonable housekeeping practices and always being aware of my children's environment and what they are doing, keeps me reassured that they are safe.

At the end of a long day filled with work and family activities, parenting my two young children may not be any different than parenting for any other dad. I accept that other parents who are blind may use different adaptive skills. However, I believe that any person who is confident in their independent living skills and emotionally prepared for parenting can be successful at this most challenging and rewarding full-time job.