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Note: The 20-20 is in reference to visual acuity. Be rest assured the cricket one is here to stay!!
Three months ago, I got a note from my daughter’s teacher that I needed to come see her in school. I was totally surprised. What has my little one done? Of course, when I asked her, like all other questions, this one was also answered with the nonchalant shrug followed by, “I don’t know”. All day that day, I kept wondering what it could be. I looked through all her books; the once neat handwriting was taking a messy avatar, her work was either shabby or incomplete. “Oh no,” I thought, “Could this be why? She is a pretty well behaved child, why then would she do such a thing?” I kept my cool and pacified my volcanic mind to erupt in an assortment of flowery (read fiery) words only after I had met her teacher. And who knows it might not be a complaint after all, I thought.
The day finally arrived, I met her school teacher and what she revealed to me disheartened me beyond imagination. “Your daughter could not see anything written on the blackboard clearly even when I had her sit on the first bench. See all these blank spaces and incomplete work? You need to get her eyes checked immediately” I suddenly started seeing blurry myself. How could my little one of just 5 years have such poor vision?
While driving back home, I couldn’t help but recollect a couple incidences that did leave me wondering but not enough to warrant an eye exam.
One, where she was unable to see a red helicopter when we drove past a helipad. I had to stop the car so she could take a closer look at it.
Another time, she could not see a nest on a tree top that I tried to show her over several days from our balcony and each time her response was, “where mommy, where?”
I thought it was one of those typical kid traits where they cannot find/see anything you are pointing to. Not once did it dawn on me that I should get her eyes checked.
As soon as I got home from her school, I discussed her visual concern with my husband, who seemed rather unperturbed by this news and suggested that we don’t let our little one feel bad about it, because honestly there was no reason to. "She probably needs specs", he said. He might have been right about that but my mind was still reeling with all kinds of thoughts:
She eats very healthy!
She insists I put lots of veggies in her pasta!
She loves carrots and milk and all those things that are packed with A, C, E and D!
She does not even watch TV (yes, that’s the truth because even though we own one, we don’t have cable, which renders it pretty useless except for the occasional movie nights, thanks to the dusty old DVD player....ya we still own one!)
The only thing that could explain this was - She did not get to pick her genes....DARN. Both my husband and I have gifted vision, the one that requires spectacles. So perhaps that must be why? Yet again my cousin whose both parents have myopia has perfect 20-20 vision.
But the truth of the matter was it was bothering me! Why? Was I fearful of the societal acceptance of her in glasses, or was I afraid of being shamed at not taking care of her properly? Was I afraid of being labelled as a bad mother? Whatever it was, I knew I had to overcome it and FAST! And I did, thanks to the support of my husband who not even once thought that this was such a big deal and reiterated that we need to concentrate on moving forward rather than tracing back to figure out who or what to blame. Right!
We finally got her to the doctor. “She has a very high number and it’s cylindrical,” he said. It didn’t quite sound right, the ‘and cylindrical’ part, whatever that meant. Needless to say, he noticed the ‘what do you mean?’ look on our faces and went on to explain further, that her cornea was irregular in shape, which is also called astigmatism, but can be easily corrected by wearing prescription glasses.
When our little one heard the doctor say GLASSES, she started to smile ear to ear. You see, she has been wanting...correction...yearning for glasses ever since a friend of hers started wearing them. She has many a times strutted around in ours (depending on whose she can sneak on first) and thinks it’s the coolest thing ever. And so, obviously she was ecstatic when she was told she would have to wear one, everyday.
Our spectacle shopping was quite the spectacle! She tried all different colors and wanted to pick each and every color available to match her clothes. It cost me 1 Elsa pencil box, 2 chocolates and 1 balloon to convince her to pick just two pairs. She was super excited and couldn’t wait to show off her new look.
I too thought, she looked kinda cute in spectacles. Until.........
“Oh no, yeh kaise ho gaya?” (I don’t know nazar lag gayi?)
“How come so soon?” (Like she had a choice to decide when)
“Bechari” (Why? She can see better now!)
“How could you let this happen?” (Like I had a choice)
“Don’t you feed her carrots?” (Carrots? What are those?)
“See, this is what happens when you watch too much TV.” (Both me and her often have a surprised look at this one, since she hardly ever watches TV)
Why are we adults so struck with horror when we see little kids wearing specs? Not a single friend of hers asked her any of these.
She and I were so fed up with such remarks that initially she would often ask me, “Mommy, does wearing specs make me a bad girl? Why does every one look so sad when they see me in specs?” “What does it mean when they say poor thing? Are we poor now?”
“You look super duper cute in them, in fact you look 'specstacular'! They just say that because they think it might hurt your ears to wear specs all day” is what I used to console her with. She seemed to have bought that and was especially amused by the word specstacular (her understanding of that word was similar to fantastic and beyond). Of course now, after several months, it hardly bothers her and she just smiles at such comments. She has even made peace with the words “Chasmish” and "Battery" (why battery? I am yet to understand that!) thrown at her by her friends in school. And I as her mother am happy to discover this positive attitude of hers.
You see, as an adult, a mother, I understand that when people make such remarks/comments they don’t necessarily mean ill BUT to a five year old, who is trying to accept her vision shortcoming and is perhaps one amongst the hundreds who wears specs so early on, such remarks are demotivating and make the parents job a lot tougher in trying to help them comply.
If there is concern, voice the concern one on one with the parent, not in front of the child. P.L.E.A.S.E! And don’t do it in an “it’s your fault” manner.
Instead why not try something like this,
“Wow, those are some cool glasses you got”
“You look cute in them”
“I like your specs, you look nice in them”
“You sure must be able to see much better now”
" You look very smart in those" and such. You get the drift!
And if you still feel compelled to remark otherwise, then remind yourself to take a deep breath, take a deep breath again and smile. That’s all. B
Sometimes, all it takes is to do or say nothing and yet mean a lot!