Isa wrote this great story of her son getting glasses the summer before starting kindergarten. The story was originally posted on her blog Raising SOS and is reprinted here with her permission. – Ann Z
At back to school night, it was easy to pick out Samuel’s self-portrait.
It wasn’t the blonde bed head that tipped us off. It was the blue, rectangular eyeglasses. The funny thing is that I stopped noticing the glasses shortly after he started wearing them. To me, he just looks like Samuel, but to many parents at our school, Samuel is “the kid with glasses.” I get it. I know the girl with club feet, the boy with an eye patch, and the two lonely black kids. I also understand that I really don’t know them at all.
Other parents often ask me how I found out that Samuel had a vision problem. What they are really wondering is if their children will need glasses too. They wonder if there is a medical explanation for their kids’ wiggling, short attention span, and confusion about the numbers 6 and 9. I hate to report that the glasses didn’t solve any of these problems.
We got the official diagnosis, at his five year-old check-up, but we would have figured it out much sooner if we were paying attention. A referral to the optometrist unearthed the fact that Samuel’s “blinking face” was not an attempt to sabotage our family photos, or the early sign of a social disorder; he probably just had a vision problem. Samuel is nearly blind in one eye when looking at objects up close like letters and numbers—all the rage in kindergarten—and had been compensating with his good eye. We had grown so accustomed to his tilt-blink-and-grimace move that we had almost stopped noticing it.
The optometrist informed us that glasses would allow Samuel’s eye to strengthen over time. If he wore them enough, he would likely grow out of them in a few years. It was good news.
I was devastated.
I didn’t want a foreign object on my son’s face. I didn’t want Samuel to look different from the other kids. I didn’t want to nag him to, “put on his glasses.” I was already on his case enough and wanted to reserve a bit of nagging for say, when he started piano lessons.
I really didn’t want eyeglasses in our family photos.
I realized my hypocrisy. I genuinely thought that other people’s kids with glasses were cute. (I also think that triplets are cute, but I do not want a set of my own.) My darling niece wears glasses. One of my best friends’ daughters wears glasses. I love these girls, glasses and all. The husband wears glasses for Pete’s sake and I fell in love with his sexy, smart looks.
Was I really that (gulp) shallow? How could I be so oddly vain about my child when I care little about my own looks—evidenced by my lack of makeup and daily uniform of ponytail, flip flops and stretched out yoga pants.
With prescription in hand, we visited the eyeglass shop to choose Samuel’s new frame this past June. I adopted a weird, overly enthusiastic tone when pointing out his choices.
“Wow, those are really cool! Look at the boys in the poster (gesticulating madly)! They are wearing their glasses at the skate park! How super awesome!”
I started to hate the sound of my own voice. I knew Samuel could see right through me with his newly attuned, five year-old parental-bullshit-o-meter.
Or maybe not. It turned out that he did want glasses just like the boys at the skate park. These specs also happened to have rectangular frames just like Dad’s. Astonishingly, Samuel happily wore the specs all summer. No need for nagging. He loved wearing his glasses. Still, I steeled myself for public kindergarten.
Kindergarten started and none of his classmates commented on his glasses. Three months into school, I see why. First of all, kindergarteners are pretty forgiving. A kid with a peg leg, turrets and a penchant for licking can still be pretty popular. One of Samuel’s new friends has a face covered in tiny clear warts. Another wears athletic socks on his arms for “warmth” and another wears mismatched tye-dye separates that highlight his flaming red hair. There are kids who rely on the free “community snack” at recess and wear the clothing we donate to the free clothing exchange.
I stopped worrying about Samuel and his designer glasses.
A few weeks ago, my cousin, a professional photographer, took family photos for our holiday card. We started the shoot indoors with Samuel wearing his glasses, but quickly realized that the camera flash reflected badly off his lenses. We ditched the glasses for the rest of the session.
The photos came out beautifully—thanks to my cousin’s talent and an arsenal of juice boxes. This year, I managed to mail a bonafide Christmas card as opposed to the procrastinator’s New Year’s Card.
The photos look like us—a much cleaner, more color-coordinated version of us—and capture a moment in our family history. A moment when our three small children could still be easily bribed with a juicebox. I adore the photos and know that someday I’ll look back at them to remember what our little kids looked like.
The only thing that will be missing is Samuel’s glasses.