Seeing clearly

I knew it would happen eventually. But I didn’t know it would be this soon. Or that I’d have these feelings about it.

“Have you ever taken Duncan to an eye doctor?” his teacher asked me a few weeks ago after school, as I was picking up the kids.

“Yep,” I replied, a little guiltily. “I need to take them in for another checkup, though.”

But their eyes are perfect!
In the fall, both Duncan and Berry came home with a 20/30 vision report. But the paper said I only needed to do something about it if it was 20/40 or worse. I’d taken them in to see my eye doctor earlier in the year and their vision was fine then. So I procrastinated.

Then we got the appointment reminder card in the mail from their eye doctor. “I should make an appointment, I thought. Berry’s been complaining that things look a bit fuzzy.”

I didn’t really believe her, though. She’s been angling for glasses as a fashion accessory for a while.

A few days later, Duncan’s teacher nudged me. She’d moved his desk up to the front of the classroom as he couldn’t seem to see the board.

Duncan’s first pair of glasses

You can guess the rest of this story.

I dutifully made an appointment for the following week. The kids vibrated with excitement and anticipation. We went. The optician did his thing. (Duncan waited in the other room while Berry went first as he didn’t want to cheat on the test.) We learned they both need glasses.

They may be clones
Here’s the funny thing: even though the kids are almost 2 years apart, they have the same prescription. At least they can’t try to one-up each other in an “I have worse vision than you do” competition. Because if there’s something they can compare each other against or argue about, they will.

The not so funny thing is that I dreaded the appointment in inverse proportion to the kids looking forward to it. I remember getting glasses — I was 10. And it was the same story. The blackboard became fuzzy (those classroom blackboards and whiteboards causing our children’s vision to fail….), my teacher talked to my mum, she reluctantly took me to an optician and I got glasses.

So while the kids leaped about with joy and impatience last week, waiting for their glasses to be made for them, I had to hide my unease and reluctance.

Not only would the words, “Do you have your glasses?” now be put into constant rotation along with “Put on your shoes,” “Do you have your lunch bag?” and “You need to wear pants to go to school,” but I was faced with an undeniable truth: I had made my children imperfectly.

Berry’s first pair of glasses

I realize the ridiculousness of this statement. They are no more imperfect than I am. Both their Dad and I are near sighted. But I was hoping… I was hoping those genes would skip them. Along with the genes for depression, chronic illness, alcoholism and anything else lurking about in our DNA that might interfere with them having successful, happy lives.

It’s hard letting your kids grow up. (Ha, “letting,” like we have a choice.) They fall, they get up, they learn, they grow, they fall again, and on and on. It’s part of life. Yet still..

Not my experience
I hated my first pair of glasses (and the second pair, and then I got contact lenses). I felt ugly and awkward and despised the horrible things. I only wore them when I absolutely had to — at school, in class, while looking at the blackboard. Never at recess, after school or on the weekends. Perhaps it was because we had a limited choice of unattractive frames in 1980s Barbados. Or I wanted to test my sheer willpower to make my vision normal again. Or I was just at the right age — 11 and budding into puberty — that it heightened my self-consciousness and lowered my self-esteem.

So I felt bad for the kids.

A new gift
But when we went to finally get the finished glasses this week, something amazing happened. I wish I’d captured the moment on video, rather than just in my heart.

Cute kids — with great teeth

Duncan put his glasses on and his entire being lit up.

“I can see!” he blurted. “Oh my God! I can see everything.”

It was like watching someone hear for the first time. The amazement and joy. The delight. He was being given a gift.

Then it was Berry’s impatient turn. And the same thing happened. She put on her glasses, stood up and looked out the window.

“I can see the leaves. The trees have so many leaves. And the moss. I can see the moss on that tree — it’s green and brown and…”

They’d been given the gift of clear sight. They could see.

As is most of parenting, I realized this wasn’t about me at all. They aren’t destined to repeat my patterns and disappointments. They’ll make their own meaning of their experiences. Perhaps their chromosonal input is similar to mine, but their upbringing is different, and so will be their output.

This kid’s a keeper
After we got home, I gave Duncan some snuggles in his bed. And he deftly put to rest my other, unspoken fear. Now that they could see me clearly, what would they say? They already like to make comments about the size of my behind and the softness of my belly.

“How are your glasses feeling, honey?” I asked him.

“They’re great. I’m so glad I have them,” he replied. “Do you know why?”

“Because now you can see everything?”

“Yep. And because now I can see you better. And you’re so pretty.”