When good news is bittersweet

Today, I got the OK to shelve Eve’s glasses.

She’s been wearing eyeglasses for almost exactly one year.  In that time we’ve gone through four frames and three pairs of lenses … I think. It was hard to keep track of all the bends, breaks and scratches after a while.

Eve was still 1 year old when she was prescribed the specs six weeks after surgery to correct her crossed eyes. They, along with a plastic film adhered to one lens, would help fine-tune the alignment of her eyes.

Recently, though, I’ve noticed her right eye veer outward while wearing the glasses, usually when she looked up. I wondered if they were doing more harm than good. I emailed my concerns and photos to our ophthalmologist, who practices in Minneapolis. She wrote back and said to leave the glasses off until our next appointment, in December.

I should be thrilled. No more sticky lenses to clean! No more trips to the optical shop to straighten bent bows! No more frames on her pretty face! Just chocolate brown eyes and long, dark lashes.

But she doesn’t look like herself without the wire-rimmed frames that have donned her face for about a third of her life. I guess I’ve grown accustomed to them, even if it took a lot of parental finagling to get her to wear them consistently.

There’s another reason this is a bit bittersweet, too: For the last year, Eve has sort of served as a walking public service announcement. Because when we’re in public, other kids will often comment, loudly, “Look at that baby! She’s wearing glasses!” I’ve always smiled and taken the opportunity to explain that sometimes even little kids need glasses to help them see better. I think I’ll miss those interactions, that opportunity to normalize glasses — differences — for kids.

We’ll see what the doctor says in December. Maybe we’ll need to bring those glasses out again — sticky lenses and all. But hopefully we’ll hear her eyes are focused straight ahead, ready for the future.

An update on Eve’s glasses

Eve’s wire-rimmed glasses lasted six weeks before being damaged. In the toddler glasses world, I think that’s the equivalent of 27 years.

I am glad they lasted this long. I certainly wasn’t expecting it. But Eve has been amazingly good to wear them consistently, and treat them well. But one cranky afternoon, she wrenched them off her face and twisted the bow so it was at a 90-degree angle. I was able to rotate the ear piece so she could still wear them, and the optical shop employee adjusted them a bit more, but they still didn’t fit right.

Thank goodness for warranties. New frames are on their way.

I hope they make it 6 more weeks, until our next visit to the ophthalmologist.

Now if I can just keep her morning oatmeal off the lenses …

Toddler glasses open mom’s eyes to parenting techniques

My Parenting Perspectives column for Dec. 1 …

It was the best news the ophthalmologist could have given us.

My husband and I knew our daughter’s crossed eyes weren’t perfectly straight six weeks after surgery. But little Eve wouldn’t need another operation, the doctor said. She just needed eyeglasses.

I was thrilled. Until I realized she was going to have to wear glasses.

And I was going to have to be the person to make sure she’d wear them.

My mother repeatedly wondered aloud how a toddler like Eve would ever keep glasses on. The first ophthalmologist we visited told us he wouldn’t put a child under age 2 into glasses for that reason.

But I knew this was the best option for her and the health of her eyes.

I was encouraged when we picked out the wire-rimmed frames that she didn’t immediately pull off. She giggled when she saw herself in the mirror.

After an adjustment to the nose pads, she’ll usually keep the specs on for several hours at a time. “Eve glasses,” she’ll say when she passes a reflective surface. They make her look so grown-up, like a mini-teenager, her day care provider said.

The problem is trying to put them on her once they’re off. She deflects my attempts with as much skill as Curly blocking Larry’s eye pokes in “The Three Stooges.”

This daily battle has forced me to fine-tune my parenting strategies, something I’m sure all moms and dads have to do as their toddlers become ever so independent.

I praise her for wearing them, clapping and cheering when she lets me put them on her without a fight. I tell her how important it is to wear her glasses. We talk about how Mommy and Daddy have glasses. And Uncle Carl and her friend Hayden and Papa and Grandma and anyone else I can think of. And I will give her a minute-long timeout when she continues to defy me.

But the best tactic has seemed to be simply explaining a new set of rules. She has to wear her glasses when we read a book. She has to put her glasses on before we watch a video. And, of course, glasses are required attire for drinking apple juice.

It’s worked well, though I do worry I’m tip-toeing awfully close to bribery, a parental no-no.

I’m not giving her apple juice for putting her glasses on. I’m saying she can’t have any until she wears them. But does she understand the difference? I’m not sure.

For now, I just have to hope she’s not learning to expect a reward for doing something that’s expected of her.

And I have to keep doing what’s expected of me: to be a loving mom, consistent in discipline and positive reinforcement, even if I don’t always know the best way to do that.

Eve’s glasses have brought another challenge into our home, as well. I never imagined how smudged or filthy they could get.

I asked the woman who adjusted the nose piece if she had any suggestions for keeping them clean.

She gave me four bottles of lens cleaner and wished me luck.

I guess the answers to parental dilemmas are never crystal clear.

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Sherri Richards is mother of a 20-month-old daughter and employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com