I'm not sure what to write from here, I feel like there are a million things to say and ways to arrange the words and I feel like none of them do justice to what I'm feeling or thinking.
So, I suppose I should start at the beginning.
For a few months now (since Eli was about eight months?) I started noticing Eli's left eye wandered. It was just a little, so little that I often convinced myself I was seeing something or it was a trick of the camera. I showed it to Mike and just a couple other people, and all of them convinced me my eyes were playing tricks on me and it was nothing.
About three weeks ago Eli got sick (what's new?) and I took him to the doctor only to find out that he had the dreaded Hand Food Mouth Disease. (If you're not a parent, this sounds disgusting and terrible, but I assure you, it is not. Well, it is terrible so I take that back. But it's just like the worst cold/fever ever followed by a rash on the hands, foot and mouth that hurts like the dickens. And for the record, it's quite common in children - so your someday child will likely get it too.) At the appointment, the Doctor noticed Eli's wandering eye - the first doctor to ever do so - and promptly told me that Eli was likely blind in that eye and may never read if we don't get it fixed. (For the record, this was not our usual pediatrician!)
While I'm levelheaded enough to rationalize away that my son was blind (Let's just remember his obsession with lint for a second.) the doctor scared me sufficiently enough to make an appointment with a pediatric opthamologist the following week. While I'm going to save what it's like to take a 14 month old to the eye doctor and how they check a 14 month-old-who-can't-speak's vision and all the other FAQ I get asked for another post, suffice it to say it's pretty terrible and traumatizing.
In the end we found out Eli is farsighted with astigmatisms and strabismus, which means his right eye is stronger and his left eye "wanders" a little to try to compensate for his vision. Directly after the appointment, we took him to an eye glasses shop that specializes in children's glasses to get him fitted with frames, and a week and a half later, picked up his new specs, and started down the road of getting him to wear them consistently.
So that's the story. I realize it's a small thing. Lots of kids wear glasses, kids on glasses are "SO CUTE!" It's not like he has a life-threatening illness and yadda, yadda, yadda, I've heard it all. But I'm going to be honest, this was very, very hard for Mike and me. Particularly for me, I felt an enormous amount of guilt at not having said something to the pediatrician sooner. I know I tend to error on the "laid-back mom" side of things - and I guess I just figured kids are weird and they do weird things sometimes so I'm not going to worry about it - but now I'm kicking myself for being like that and I wish I would have gotten him help sooner! I feel like maybe if I would have caught it sooner, he wouldn't have to wear them so long before his vision is fixed, I've worried that the reason why he's not walking is because his balance is off from his vision (a fear confirmed by the opthamologist), and I feel guilty for not meeting a HUGE need for my child.
In addition - and I hesitate to admit this - I've really struggled with feeling guilty about just plain not wanting him to wear glasses. Sure, kids with glasses are cute. But that's a lot easier to say about someone else's kid. I think he's cuter without glasses - or maybe it's just a different kind of cute - but I keep looking at him and wishing he didn't need them, sometimes for no other reason than the fact that I like him better without them. Is that so terrible for me to say?
There were other worries too of course - most much more important than my silly vanity issues. I mean:
- How do you keep glasses on a 14 moth old?
- What if he breaks them or I lose them?
- Will he always be known as the "boy in glasses?" Will that be the first thing people notice about him, comment on and define him by?
- Will he be made fun of by other kids someday?
- Will it be a total battle to get him to adjust to them? What do I do if he cries every time we put them on?
- How do I keep them clean? Won't they collect food/snot/dirt/finger prints and more? What do I do when they fog up?
- Will other kids his age want to pull them off his face and play with them?
- What if his eyes get worse, not better? What if I miss something again?
I cried on and off for a few days, worrying and regretting and being angry about everything I listed above and more. I'm working on letting these things go. While Mike felt these things, I just think dads have some magic ability to shed these burdens much more quickly than moms. I know truth, but sometimes it takes a while for it to take root in my heart, so I'm working on letting it grow. We're taking it one step at a time, knowing not everything will be solved at once.
Another struggle we've had is neither Mike nor I wear glasses, so we both felt pretty overwhelmed with the news. Heck, I had to have the opthamologist confirm what I thought farsightedness was! While I did some research before the appointment, I didn't really know what questions to ask, and much of my research led me to believe that we would just be patching Eli's eye, or potentially be having out-patient surgery, I didn't really look into glasses all that much. But it's weird, you walk out of the opthamologist's office with a diagnosis, and the next thing you know you're at an eye glasses shop, trying glasses on your bawling, tired, irritated son, like hats. You order everything as quickly as possible, dropping $400 faster than you can think, so you can get your child home for a nap, not realizing that you should have asked about warrantees, replacements, adjustments, cleaning and more. It all came and went so fast that when we got home, all three of us took a nap out of sheer mental and emotional exhaustion.
Eli's been wearing his glasses for a few days now and honestly, it's going much better than we ever expected. We both believe he can tell that they help his vision and already we've seen more confidence in his walking attempts. He doesn't fight when we put them on, (except for in the first day or two) and for the most part, he leaves them alone. The only times he get's annoyed by them and tries to take them off is when he's upset, we're messing with them (adjusting the back strap, pushing them up his nose or wiping milk/food off them) and when they get wonky on his face because he just fell over or something.
While I laid out all my fears, frustrations and worries on the table up there, I truly am so thankful we did get him help, and that he can see so much better. All my internal struggles fade when I remember how I'd do anything, ANYTHING for Eli and that even with glasses, he is still so perfect to me. I know I struggle with it, simply because I love Eli so much and just want to give him the best life I can. As moms, we know life will bring hardships for our children, but we want to protect them as much as is possible in our power, you know?
I truly know glasses are a small thing, but they do sometimes bring hard things - or maybe just annoying things - and I guess I just want to protect him - even from something that's just annoying! But I can't, and I know this is just the tip of the iceberg of things we'll help Eli through. Since I can't protect him completely, it's now my goal to help him get through it with as little frustration and pain as possible and be an advocate in his care.
And as silly as it sounds, it sorta feels like a big job.
So for now, we're taking it one day at a time with my little four eyes - my little, adorable, Eli four eyes.*
Any of you have a really little one in glasses? If so, I would LOVE to hear about your experience!
Other Posts In This Series on Oakland Avenue:
Seven Things Moms With Toddlers In Glasses Want You To Know
Kids In Glasses: Frequently Asked Questions
Tips and Tricks for Introducing Glasses To Your Toddler For The First Time (And Get Them To Keep Them On.)
My writing on other websites about glasses:
Little Four Eyes Blog: The Benefits of a Second Opinion
Twin Cities Moms Blog: How To Tell If Your Child Needs Glasses