By Theresa Sweeney-Smith
I am a legally blind grandma. I was able to see pretty well during the time I raised my son and had my step-sons around but overtime the glaucoma that has inconvenienced me since I was 16 has now taken a majority of my sight. This means that my boys have seen me go through stages of being able to drive and now at 58 years old hanging on to “Pop’s” arm.
I admit that I have very low vision. However, I love my granddaughters in a tremendous way. You see, I have been in early childhood for 27 years. I love kids! I have to be able to take care of my grandchildren and spend one on one time with them in order to develop that special “Grandma” relationship that you do not build with their parents around.
As someone who is people savvy, I understand the questions facing my children from friends and family members when they tell them that I am babysitting. “How can your Mom babysit when she cannot see?”
Well, I love their friends and our family, but I am proving that I am very capable with the help of “Papa.” Yes indeed, I am not a typical grandma and I have to know my limits. However, I utilize my knowledge in early childhood and organizational skills to come up with many techniques to keep the grandchildren happy, safe, well fed, clean and comfortable.
My two oldest granddaughters who are pretty self sufficient are now ages 10 and 13. I have watched them since they were young and both of them know now that Grandma cannot see too well, and even ask if I need help at times. However, when I want to have quality time with them, I invite them to my house where we are all comfortable. They know where things are and, most of the time, they help themselves. I know they like to make bracelets, paint and draw and I have plenty of things available to keep them busy.
We know they like to watch movies and make sure the pantry is filled with snacks and popcorn. I listen to their stories and I am truly interested in what is going on in their lives. I am not “blind” at my house. I am just Grandma and we all relax and have fun!
Two of the three youngest live in Wisconsin. I babysit on Wednesday every week. I am a great playmate for my two-year-old. We play with fancy hats; I drink tea she has made with her tea set. We march and clap, I sit with my feet in the water of her kiddie pool and she thinks I am swimming with her. Her sister is 8 months old. I can carry her along when we are playing. She too gets a fancy hat. We play blocks. I sing to her and feed her until she falls asleep. I imitate animal noises. She giggles at me.
My granddaughter in Arizona is 10 months old. She follows me when I crawl away from her and hide. She reaches for me and gives me a hug. We play with toys on a blanket on the floor and she laughs when I laugh, which is pretty often.
I am involved. My granddaughters are close to me. Not everything goes perfectly, even for sighted grandmas. I have come to realize that and it has decreased my expectations and increased my patience and sense of humor.
There are times when the little ones give me a scare. My two-year-old granddaughter put her blanket over her head while I am in the middle of changing her sister’s poopy diaper and she heads for the stairs. When she doesn’t stop, as two-year-olds with a blanket on their head typically don’t, when you call their name, you have to grab her little sister in the condition she is in and run to the stairs only to find out that the two-year-old wandered past the half-wall and the stairs into the office. The two-year-old looks at me and grins from under her blanket. “Hi Nana! You have poopy on your shirt.” I reply with the same grin, “Ahhh. Yes, I do. Don’t put the blanket on your head because I am worried….” The two year old interrupts in a disturbed voice, “You have a LOT of poopy on you, Nana!”
Yes, I am married with children and now blessed to be blind with Grandchildren that I have a relationship with, that love me for who I am and that enjoy building a relationship with me.
As my two-year-old granddaughter tells me when I tell her I am not sure I can do something, “You can, Nana! You can!” She is right. I can.
Theresa Sweeney-Smith lives in Wind Lake Wisconsin with her husband.