These days everyone knows that being a parent is hard. If we don’t know it from personal experience, there are plenty of blogs and memoirs out there to tell us so. We get it. But imagine being a blind parent. In his memoir, C’mon Papa: Dispatches from a Dad in the Dark
Ryan Knighton candidly explains what it’s like: challenging, frustrating, terrifying, but also joyous, just like it is for parents who see.
From the moment of conception, everything is harder for a blind parent. But you have to make it work. Knighton describes his frustration at not being able to see the ultrasound, and then the magic upon hearing his baby’s heartbeat for the first time. Even learning about being a parent is harder. He wanted to read up on parenting, but there were few audio books available. Fortunately, it turned out this wasn’t a problem. He had a friend help him by reading some parenting books for dads. After hearing some of the inane advice, Knighton was glad he couldn’t see: “I was already blind, I didn’t need to become an idiot too.”
There is so much in the book I can relate to--especially thinking back to when I had my first child--the sleep deprivation, the anxiety, and inability to relax. Like Knighton, I remember pouring a much needed Guiness at the end of the day, scarcely able to enjoy it while hovering around the baby monitor turned as high as it will go, twitching at every sound. But it’s his frank descriptions of fear that stir me the most. He describes going for a walk with infant Tess strapped to his chest, trying to anticipate a million hazards, and narrowly avoiding being hit by an inattentive SUV driver. Once Tess begins to walk there are new horrors—he describes her toddling away outside, silent in the snow. I lost my daughter briefly at Winners once. Five minutes of looking for a child feels like hours for someone who can see, let alone someone who is depending on her answering his calls. There are few things more terrifying, I think.
Along with fear, Knighton tackles another subject most of us can identify with: the minefield that is parenting with a partner. Trusting your partner and sharing responsibility is no easy task, and it is no different for Knighton and his partner Tracy. But, unlike many women I know, Tracy gives Knighton the trust and responsibility he needs to become a real hands-on father. I am in awe of both of them. C’mon Papa
is inspiring, honest, funny and irreverent without falling into the “bad parent” shtick that is so overused these days. No one is a perfect parent; we want to do the best we can. But as Knighton shows, kids are resilient and flexible, and sometimes the best thing we can do is follow their lead.