By Sif Dal
Have you heard about those ‘I’m a mum, so what’s your superpower’ mugs? My kids haven’t, I’ve been waiting for mine for almost two decades now. I think I should have one that says, ‘I’m a mum and I can change a dirty nappy without the lights on, so what’s your superpower’.
It’s true, you know, I can and I don’t even get poo on my hands. Well, not since that one time.
You see, I have low vision and I don’t bother with lights in the dark because they don’t help me that much. It does save on the electricity bill, though.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed the challenges of parenting when you live with low vision or blindness. You are forced to think laterally, but there are also, sometimes cheeky, perks.
With my first I used one of those baby carriers for a while. Then I rammed people with a pram for a while, it’s great for clearing the way! Then once Erik was old enough to walk, I used a baby harness. Not popular, but better than him getting run over.
I tried the harness thing with my second, he threw himself on the ground starfish style and refused to move. He was strapped into a stroller until he was four. Thems the breaks kiddo.
My kids also wore bells on their fingers and toes. True story. Okay, their hats and shoes but same effect. I knew where they were and they also sounded really cute.
My 15 year old wasn’t too impressed, though – just joking.
A place for everything
All parent do this, really, don’t they? Parents with low vision or blindness are just better at it, am I right?
My kids didn’t just have a place for their school bags, but their shoes were clipped together, colour coded lunch boxes, pencil cases and book bags. You name it, we organised it.
Those colours weren’t pale or just sort of background colours either, they were bold and plain: red, blue, green and yellow.
Their everyday clothes also tended to follow a colour scheme. I had my very own Teletubbies, they weren’t as thrilled about it as I was though. Erik doesn’t like the colour red anymore.
Nowadays, you can use nifty tag systems like Penfriend to label clothing and items, and your kids will probably like that more. I’d still use the bells though, they were just so cute!
School parent benefits and free passes
I’m a bit lazy, I’m not ashamed to admit it. We all know what the paper plate in the plastic bag from school means. School parents universally loathe the arrival of the annual cake stall, those who don’t are probably professional bakers.
Guess what? As a parent living with low vision or blindness, you’re exempt!
Okay, technically you’re not, but don’t let that stop you.
I’ve found a handy, ‘Well, the note wasn’t in an accessible format’ excuse on the odd occasion worked – until school apps came along. Stupid technology.
The sixth sense
My kids never figured out that they couldn’t sneak up on me.
Most parents have a sixth sense – if your child is too quiet, they’re not asleep, you know that, right?
My kids though, didn’t know how I could hear their eyes roll – I couldn’t, they just thought I could. They knew I couldn’t see their faces but they didn’t get away with much because my attention to the trivial rivals that of Sherlock Holmes.
I can sense body language, I had to learn to read people without seeing them - really handy as a parent.
Parenting can be isolating, and parenting when you live with low vision or blindness even more so.
It can be scary getting out of the house when you are responsible for little people you have difficulty seeing.
It can be frustrating using public transport or taxis and taking three times as long as your mummy friends to get anywhere. It can be lonely not having people dealing with the relatively rare challenges you have to deal with every day.
But things are changing. Peer networks such as Vision Australia’s Quality Living groups and Telelink groups are creating ways for parents with low vision or blindness to connect and support each other, both over the phone and in person.
Being a mum (or dad, oops) is definitely a superpower, but being one who can change a dirty nappy in the dark goes beyond your run-of-the-mill superpower. Also, it’s beyond gross sometimes, like that one time.