My four-year-old son got glasses today. . It’s been a bit of an adjustment for him, but I was surprised how much of an adjustment it was going to be for me. We have our children’s vision checked starting at six months and then every year afterward just to keep tabs on it since my husband’s blindness has the potential to be genetic. That way, if we find something, we can catch it early. Then, if blindness is a concern, we can start interventions early. Otherwise, we’ve never had any real concerns about our children’s vision. At this last visit, we discovered that my four-year-old son is fairly far sided. It’s really nothing serious, in fact, it may even be something he grows out of in a few years. Otherwise, his eyes are totally healthy, including his retinas which would be the area of most concern for blindness in our situation. But still, I came away from the appointment feeling a little sad. Sad at the feeling that I’d just been told my perfect little boy was somehow not perfect anymore even though he’ll always be perfect to me. Sad that I’d somehow not picked up on this and found myself completely blindsided by the news. Sad at the prospect of ugly name calling and blows to his self-esteem from unkind peers. Sad at finding myself projecting my own struggles with blindness on his very different situation. For example, worrying that others will jump to the conclusion that this must mean he’s going blind because he has two blind parents, or even expecting him to now have a different level of empathy for us because he’s “not perfectly sighted either.” And lastly, just sad at deep down fears at the thought of one of my children becoming blind, even though this is not the case.
This afternoon he wore his glasses to the bus stop where we pick up my daughter from school. One of the kids told him that he didn’t like his glasses. Then, feeling bad for what he’d said when the other kids, including my daughter pointed out that this wasn’t very kind, he tried to recover by saying, “well, he’s like his mom now.” For the record, I don’t wear glasses, so I can only assume this means, he can’t see well, just like his mom can’t see. My heart broke a little more at this. I came up on the tail end of the conversation and obviously wasn’t supposed to have heard that. I decided to just leave things alone and let the kids work it out since no harm had really been done and my daughter and the other girl had corrected the boy. Even if I would have said something, I don’t know what I would have said. I know that the boy wasn’t truly trying to be mean, but it’s the implication behind it that somehow there is something wrong with me and now my son was being labeled too. Thankfully when I spoke to my children about the situation later, neither one of them remembered hearing the boy say the last comment.
The angry mother bear instincts inside me want to protect my children. I don’t want them to be teased or bullied about anything, especially about their parents being blind. But I know this is impossible. I know this little encounter this afternoon wasn’t the last one, or even the meanest. We try so hard on a daily basis to instill into our children an understanding that blindness doesn’t have to be this scary, tragic thing, and while I hope my children never have to deal with it first-hand, I also don’t want them to be afraid of it and resent it. I hope that one day they will get to a place that if someone says something like “don’t you fear being blind like your parents”, that their response will be one of respect and an acceptance that blindness would be a challenge, but nothing that would ruin their lives. At least that is the message we’re trying to instill in them. Who knew a cute little pair of green frames would stir up so much emotion. Thanks for listening to my woes. I now have to go try and convince my son to wear his glasses again since he’s not put them back on since coming home from the bus stop.