Miss M has been making regular visits to Dr. Fred since she was just over two years old. We’d noticed that her left eye didn’t always seem in alignment with her right, and even though we could never get that phenomenon to recur in a doctor’s office, our family practitioner referred us to a pediatric ophthalmologist. Dr. Fred couldn’t get her eye to drift on cue, either, but he said one of the most logical and reassuring things a doctor can say: “You’re the mother, so you know better than anyone.” He had us come back in six months, and at that point, Miss M’s occasionally lazy eye was threatening to become downright slothful. The vision in that eye had weakened and the muscle control was dramatically worse (contrary to what you’d expect, strabismus is actually caused by a muscle pulling too tightly rather than the opposite). So at that point, we began a treatment plan that involved patching her good eye to strengthen her weaker one, with the routine ranging from two to eight hours a day. Things would be better for awhile, and then when we’d ease off the patching, they’d worsen again. After two years of this, including a month of having Miss M spend every waking hour with one eye covered only to have the dramatic improvement begin to regress six months later, we decided that the only permanent solution was surgery. It wasn’t easy to send a four-year-old under the knife, but knowing we’d ended our battles over The Patch made things a little easier.
That surgery was a year ago, and every follow-up visit since then has shown that it was a great success. So when Miss M had a regular check-up with Dr. Fred this week, I figured it would just be a routine visit. It was a total surprise, then, when the appointment ended with a prescription for glasses and … siiiiiiiiigh … four hours a day of patching. Turns out that left eye just hasn’t completely gotten with the program, and to keep it from returning to its old wandering ways, it needs to be both corrected (what the glasses are for) and strengthened (what the patch is for).
After determining that I wouldn’t let her get the thick, dark blue, cats-eye frames that made her look like a tiny Mad Men extra, Miss M lost all interest in the prospect of getting a new facial accessory. She hated everything she tried on, she hated me for putting them on her, and she hated that she had to have them in the first place. And that’s the treatment option that doesn’t involve adhering a giant Band-Aid to her eyelid. Oh, this is going to be fun.
I have to admit, though, that my feelings about having a glasses-wearing daughter are mixed. Part of me – the part that donned specs at age 9 – is crushed by the awareness that there is a social stigma involved. It’s an outward sign of physical weakness and a dividing line drawn between her and her peers. She’s already noticed that no one else in her class wears them, and whether or not 5-year-old understand why, there’s always an assumption that someone with problem eyes has other physical shortcomings. The kid in glasses – and especially the girl in glasses - never gets picked first for the kickball team. I feel that my adult self is still very largely informed by the image of myself that was created during my adolescence, and that image was shaped by the perception that I was quiet, studious and unathletic. By the time I got contacts in high school, it was too late. The mold was set.
On the other hand, as the mother of a preternaturally beautiful daughter, I have to admit that I’m a little relieved that there will be some small barrier between her gorgeousness and the world. It’s nice to think that she may be taken a little more seriously than if her saucer-sized, seafoam eyes were out there unshielded. Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses? Great! More time for homework! (Although the current slathering after Fey/Palin, depending on your leanings, seems to be close to dispelling that myth.)
Mostly, though, I just want her vision to be clear and strong, so if this is what it takes, so be it. How the world sees her isn’t nearly as important as how well she can see the world.