The Rewards of Grandparenting with Vision Loss

Photo of Linda Fugate, EdD, CVRT

Parenting and Grandparenting Adventures

Parenthood was one of the greatest adventures of my life. It was filled with highs and lows, many firsts from sleeping through the night to walking down the aisle at a child’s wedding. There were sticky kisses, scraped knees and broken hearts. For my children there was also Grandma. They all have wonderful memories of the time they spent with her, so for me, being a grandparent meant sharing adventures, stories, teas and ballgames.

How do you play catch or read stories when the world is a blur? How do pass on a tradition, whether that is knitting or stamp collecting, camping or music when you cannot see? These are questions I faced as a grandparent.

Some things I learned I have had to leave to others; however, I have been able to have wonderful relationships with all my grandchildren, and have passed on to them the things I value in life.

Reading Stories

One example is my granddaughter Madeline who loved stories. So I started telling her the stories I could not read. This continued to stories from my childhood and she loved every one. This last Christmas at a family gathering, Madeline, now a senior in high school, came and sat down beside me saying, “Grandma, tell me a story, please?” As I started her favorite story several of her cousins came and joined us as did her brothers. It was a wonderful time with a little one snuggled on my lap. I cannot see the words but I can share my love of books.

Reading the Pictures

I also have fun “reading the pictures.” We just sit down with a book and the grandchild help me tell a story from the pictures in the book. This is especially fun when it is a new book and the end is unknown.

The Adventures of Shopping and Cooking

Some of the challenges have turned into some of the best adventures. When Jacob was young he loved oatmeal cookies at my house. One day he asked if we could make them. This meant a trip to the store, something Jacob had never done with me. Two extra buses later we found what we needed for our cookies and called a cab went home and made our cookies. Later Jacob told his mother that riding on the bus was as much fun as Disney World!

The kitchen is a wonderful place with grandchildren. I have found some of the things I need because of my vision actually works well with children. I use large print recipes which turned out to be easier for young children to follow. My measuring cups are marked with large numbers in a contrasting color and the marks on my stove are great for little fingers. One thing I learned was to try the recipe at least once before including a grandchild. This would have prevent a few less successful dishes!

Talking About My Vision

One thing that I thought about when I first became a grandmother was what, if anything, to tell them about my vision. I wanted them to understand why I couldn’t do some activities with them. I have found simple straight-forward explanation about the task is what they want and they can be quite protective if they think it is needed.

Grandchild’s Advocacy

I attended my grandson Brian’s last high school football game; even though I couldn’t see the game it was important to both of us for me to be there. After the game I was walking out of the stadium with Rileigh, who was 5 at the time, and some of the young people in a hurry to get out were jumping over my cane. Rileigh stopped right in front of me and looked at a group of them asking, “Don’t you know that cane means my grandma can’t see, are you trying to hurt her?”

Playing in the Park

Becoming a grandparent I was concerned about the children getting hurt because of my vision. So I went to a park and observed the children. This helped me see where problems might occur on an outing. When a situation came up I thought might not be in the child’s best interest, I talked to their parents about how it could be handled. This has allowed me to be an involved grandparent who doesn’t see things quite as well as others. Life lessons taught; treasured memories made the reward of grandchildren enjoyed.I can hardly wait for my great-grandchildren to arrive this winter!

Read more about grandparenting with vision loss.