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Nana Cannot See Very Well

Editor's Note: Beryl Williams is the NFB:AE\'s former 1st Vice President. She lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Becoming grandparents is something all parents contemplate periodically, and then it becomes reality!

The long awaited arrival brings a variety of emotions including relief, pride, joy and wonder; for me, there was also apprehension. I wanted to have an active role despite the limitations that blindness might present, but how would I gain the necessary self-trust and confidence to have meaningful and fulfilling involvement with my granddaughter, along with any other little ones to come in the future?

After the initial stages of adjustment by all, especially the new parents, I was entrusted with short periods of babysitting, which presented no immediate problems or anxieties. The time between feedings was usually taken up with the baby sleeping, interrupted only by occasional fussing and diaper changing. As baby Alice developed, however, her natural curiosity soon began to expand the boundaries of her environment, and my role became more challenging.

As anyone with personal experience caring for infants knows only too well, it is necessary to be constantly alert and aware of their every movement. This presents a definite challenge to someone unable to keep a sharp eye on their charge. Monitoring requires 100% awareness, and lack of sight demands being at hand's reach at all times.

Children's instinctive curiosity motivates mobility sooner than is good for their safety, and it is imperative to create a hazard-free environment. While it is virtually impossible to avoid all the potential disasters quietly lurking around every corner or behind every door, using common sense, child-proof safety techniques can guard against obvious dangers, making child care a more relaxed occupation for all concerned. This is true for anyone but particularly so if one is not able to keep a visual check.

I have not taken on the responsibility of outdoor activities beyond our fenced garden or neighbourhood sidewalk yet; I am more at ease in a familiar setting, where the comfort level is almost up to par with that of sighted family members. There will be lots of opportunity for venturing further afield once a strong mutual understanding and respect of limitations and boundaries has developed. I am proving to myself and family members that, despite my limited visual acuity, I am more than capable and responsible to be in sole charge of my grandchildren.

I do miss participating in visual activities like drawing, painting, crafts, looking at and reading picture books; nevertheless, there are many ways I can compensate. Traditional and improvisational storytelling, nursery rhymes and games, along with a wealth of songs, all provide wonderful quality time together and opportunities for sharing.

Baking and cooking are other popular activities although things can get a little hectic now that there are two little assistants dragging over stools as soon as they notice I am about to start something. The children are also learning that certain things are out of bounds, particularly around the stovetop burners.

I believe my greatest contribution is the quality time we share talking and listening together, which certainly can never be diminished or compromised by my lack of sight. I trust there are some very positive images and attitudes being absorbed by these children, which will remain with them forever. Their understanding is already beyond their years. They see nothing unusual about Nana seeing and doing things in a different way. As Alice often remarks, "That is because you cannot see very well, isn't it Nana?"

Naturally, there are times when I wish I could see. Sight would allow me greater freedom to do many more activities, but there is far too much joy and happiness at hand to cherish and little gained by dwelling on the negative. I am reassured by the confidence and trust that are enabling me to be the Nana I always hoped I'd be.

I now have four grandchildren, on whom I can lavish all my affections and indulgences while developing and building a strong and lifelong relationship with the next generation. I believe I can enrich the lives of all my grandchildren. As time passes, all too quickly, their memories of times spent together with Nana will be happy ones.