raspberry gets glasses

Raspberry needs glasses.

It took me a long time to accept this. When it was confirmed last Monday, it weighed heavily on my mind for two days and I cried hard both those days. At the root of my despair was my overwhelming guilt for not having Raspberry tested sooner, for not recognizing the signs, and for being in a deep state of denial for months. Her prescription is almost close to mine, so I know what it’s like living in a blurry world, where everything beyond an arm’s length is coloured fuzz. Knowing this, it kills me that my denial led to her living in such state for so long.

It must have been around last fall when Lucas and I talked about getting Raspberry’s eyes tested. I don’t remember what sparked it, but it must have been something she couldn’t see. I remember Lucas going into the optician’s at Clayton Square while Raspberry and I nosed around in Mothercare, either attempting to find her new pajama shirts or casually browsing baby clothes that I didn’t intend to buy. Lucas didn’t get much information from the optician that day as it was busy, but we worried about the cost of the eye test (as money was still really tight then) so we didn’t really pursue it, thinking that whatever Raspberry couldn’t see might have been an anomaly or that it really wasn’t that bad.

Cue the beginning of my denial. I didn’t want to think that my then-five-year-old needed glasses. She’s so young, I wailed. I hated thinking about the fact that she’d have a lifetime of bad vision ahead of her. I was diagnosed with myopia when I was nine. In my mind, I really hoped that if Raspberry needed glasses, it wouldn’t be until she was at least a teenager or better yet, hopefully she’d inherited Lucas’ good eyesight. Cloaked in my denial, I was relieved when we didn’t actually bother with the eye test. At the time, I thought it was something we could deal with later, without consequence.

Then, a few weeks ago at capoeira, Aurelie asked if Raspberry was short-sighted as she was squinting. “I do that too,” Aurelie said. I nodded knowingly, but inside, I freaked out that someone else has noticed and if someone else had picked up on this, then it must be true. I was all too familiar with the squinting, but I’d assumed that it was a Raspberry-quirk. Just like when she spots something on the ground, and practically doubles herself over while bending down to look at it. I thought that was a quirk too. She has many idiosyncrasies, you see. In the same vein, when we were at the Harris Museum in Preston last month, and she couldn’t read the labels accompanying the hung works of art, I’d thought that it was because the sign was well above eye-level for her. Yes, obviously total denial. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that she actually might need glasses.

I mentioned Aurelie’s observation to Lucas, and he asked Raspberry if she could read the sign on the wall of the opposite building and and the licence plate on a car on the other side of the parking lot. I waited with baited breath for her to reply, and alas, to my dismay, she couldn’t. She wrongly guessed a couple of the letters and that’s when I knew we really had to get her eyes tested.

As it turns out, the NHS offers free eye tests for kids (I’d never have known this had Aurelie not told me). With that in mind, I booked an eye test for Raspberry and dragged a nervous, reluctant child to get it done. I dreaded it as much as she did. Despite explaining to her what to expect, she remained apprehensive, although she was running up and down the hallway in the waiting room like a feral child. The optometrist was incredibly nice and she was really good with Raspberry. You could tell she definitely had experience with kids who’d never had their eyes tested before, and Raspberry became calm enough to enjoy the test. She delighted in joining the letters to form nonsensical words, and kept saying how much she liked the red and green projection.

I didn’t realize how bad Raspberry’s eyesight was until she was unable to read the second largest letters. The second largest! I thought she’d at least make it to the point where the letters look a bit like tarantulas on a wall. My stomach clenched the moment she said she couldn’t read them. For a few minutes, I thought that maybe it was a mistake and I wanted to yell, “noooo! Ask her again!” but a greater force (unconscious reason, perhaps?) prevented me from doing so. It eased my mind that a refraction test was done so the prescription would be more accurate. I don’t recall that being done when I used to have eye tests. I’d assumed they would figure out your prescription based on whether lens one or lens two was better. The optometrist patiently answered my freaking-out-parent questions (“No, I don’t think reading all the time caused it.” “It’s mostly genetic.” “No, it can’t be improved. It’ll probably get worse as she gets older. Sorry.”) and I kept feeling like there should be more to ask but there wasn’t.

When we left the optician’s that afternoon, Raspberry and I were both bummed out by the fact that she needed glasses. She was averse to change and not knowing any other kids with glasses, she didn’t want to stick out. I couldn’t commiserate — I started wearing glasses when I was nine, and I was excited about it because I could be like a lot of the other kids in my class. In retrospect, I feel silly for getting excited over bad vision. Raspberry wanted to keep her glasses a secret, saying that she wanted it to be a surprise, but I suspect that might’ve been because she wasn’t sold on them. After she picked out her own glasses the next day though (tortoiseshell, to match mine — should I be flattered… or embarrassed?), she did a complete 180 and felt great about them. She changed her mind about it wanting to be a surprise too and when I asked, she said I could write about it here. While waiting for her glasses to be made over the course of the week, she gradually accepted the fact that she had poor eyesight and needed glasses. She noted that the females in the family now all have glasses and the males don’t. A few days ago when we were walking down the street, she quipped, “We both have bad vision. We’re like a disaster between us!” And she made her first self-portrait of her in glasses while making a birthday card. It seems like she’s embraced her needing glasses.

I suppose in the past week, I’ve grown to accept it too. In the days leading up to today, when she got her glasses, I was actually a little excited that she’d finally be able to see clearly. A week ago, I was in tears though. Lucas, who took a class in trauma during his Master’s, said I was going through the grieving process. I lamented the loss of her previously good eyesight. The guilt was unbearable and I wanted so badly to cry every time I thought about it, until I finally did while burning the midnight oil when everyone else was sound asleep. While Googling for ways to make the transition to glasses easier for Raspberry, I came across a blog for parents of kids with glasses. I felt stupid for feeling so upset over something as trivial as bad eyesight, but while reading the plethora of comments I was surprised to find that my reaction and guilt weren’t uncommon. Knowing that did little to ease my own visceral emotions though. Time made it better. Lucas was upset by the news too, but since he tends to be more logical than emotional, he seemed better able to handle it that I was. He was completely rational, saying that it is what it is and that at least we caught it so she can now get the help she needs to see. Citing an example in one of Raspberry’s favourite books, he suggested that some of Raspberry’s emotional challenges might be helped with her improved vision too.

We picked up Raspberry’s first pair of glasses today and got a second pair made (thankfully, they’re free for kids, a perk of the NHS). She was so amazed by how clear everything suddenly was. On the way home, she ran and bounced and jumped in puddles, all the while reading signs that she probably could barely see just a few hours before. She remarked how everything seemed brighter, an observation I found quite interesting (especially with dark rain clouds looming overhead). To say she was excited would be an understatement.

Sometime during the afternoon, she realized that she couldn’t read with her glasses on as everything was a big blur. We went back and I was told it’s because her reading prescription is nil and that she should just take her glasses off when reading or seeing something close up. It makes little sense to me, since I’ve always been able to read with my glasses on, even when my prescription was rather low. I imagine it’ll be quite the hassle for her to keep putting her glasses on and off just so she can see things properly. We’ll be going back tomorrow to speak to an optometrist so we can figure out what’s going on. As Lucas puts it, we’re learning as we go. It’s strange for someone who has worn glasses for most of her life, but I suppose it makes sense. Hopefully we’ll be able to sort everything out soon and Raspberry will be able to see, hassle-free.


11 responses

  1. I have to take glasses off when I read, too, otherwise I get a headache. I only need them to see stuff far away :) she looks very charming in her new glasses–and it does seem lucky you caught it early! We didn’t figure I needed them until I was in middle school and couldnt see the chalkboard.

    June 10, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    • Is your prescription rather high? Raspberry’s is, and she was told to keep her glasses on at all times, which makes sense. But everything close up becomes a blur. She had to take her glasses off so she could see Lucas, who was standing right in front of her. It seems odd to me, I guess, because I have my glasses on all the time and I can see both near and far, and my prescription is close to hers.

      I feel so guilty that we didn’t catch it earlier. I figured that if she was in school, we’d have noticed sooner if she couldn’t see the chalkboard. That’s what we get for homeschooling… ha! :P

      I do like her in her glasses too. They suit her quite well! She’s picked out a pair of purple and red ones too, and those really work for her as well.

      June 10, 2014 at 11:13 pm

  2. Anonymous

    I was about 12 when going to a skating rink with a friend. From a distance over a field, maybe 300 meters, I saw other kids skating and said to my friend, ” I wonder who all those kids were skating today ” ? She looked at me and said there were only two skaters ! I saw an army of skaters.
    After that I got my eyes tested and have worn all kinds of glasses ever since !

    June 11, 2014 at 3:07 am

  3. qou

    don’t worry about it, mama. i can’t see far away either but i stopped wearing glasses because i enjoy my watercolor vision :)

    June 11, 2014 at 5:27 am

  4. This is a really touching account of Rb getting glasses. You’re a good mom, Dawn! I also think that you caught this really young, even if it might not seem like it. I totally know what you mean about trying to distinguish idiosyncratic kid behavior from behavior stemming from some kind of issue that they quietly attempt to resolve. It’s that “can’t see the forest for the trees” idea!

    June 11, 2014 at 5:07 pm

  5. That’s hilarious! :) Nothing like a moment of horror or epiphany to make you realize you need glasses!

    June 16, 2014 at 9:52 am

  6. I like the way you look at it! Suddenly, the world seems a bit more magical when you describe it that way.

    June 16, 2014 at 9:53 am

    • qou

      that’s why money’s stuff got dreamier as he aged, i think! that’s how it was actually looking. mmmm :)

      June 16, 2014 at 10:24 pm

      • qou

        MONET not money ;)

        June 16, 2014 at 10:24 pm

      • Oh yeah, I remember reading that his eyesight was rather bad in his later years, apparently brought about by painting en plein air.

        June 16, 2014 at 10:35 pm

  7. Thanks for the reassurance, Kristen! I don’t think I’m upset over the glasses anymore (in fact, some moments, I think Raspberry even looks strange without her glasses!), but it still sucks that she’ll be stuck with them for at least years to come.

    June 16, 2014 at 9:57 am

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