How glasses and an eye patch taught me some important parenting lessons
When my son, Henry, was about 15 months old, I noticed his left eye would cross whenever I held a spoon up close to his face to feed him. A visit to his pediatrician led to a consultation with a pediatric ophthalmologist, and before we knew it, we learned that Henry needed both glasses and an eye patch to correct his vision and eye crossing.
I remember leaving that ophthalmology visit in tears, thinking how sad I was for my son that at the young age of 15 months I was going to have to try and convince him to let me cover up one eye for a few hours every day in the name of fixing his vision and muscles in that eye. How would he understand that? Wouldn’t he rip it off? And don’t get me started on the glasses! How would I get him to keep them on? Wouldn’t they get torn off and twisted and broken? I prepared myself for a rather uphill battle.
I think what I was more concerned with, to be honest, was that other people would see my son first as “the kid with the glasses” and “that kid who wears a weird patch” rather than Henry, my sweet boy who loves trains and doing silly dances. I was worried he was going to be judged based on his appearance – something no parent wants for their child. Heck, something no parent wants for themselves.
As it turned out, Henry proved me wrong on all fronts. He took to his patch without a hiccup. His glasses were equally a seamless transition. You see, my dad wears glasses too, and on the weekend we had Henry start trying his out as he was spending time with my parents. Of course he wanted to be like Grandpa and have glasses of his own!
When we started patching, I thought I would time it for whenever we were at home so that Henry wouldn’t have to deal with wearing it out in public and people wouldn’t stare or comment. It quickly became clear to me that was more for me than my son, so I scrapped that plan. Here I was worrying that people would treat him differently because of the patch and yet I was falling into that very trap.
So now Henry wears his patch for two hours every day, whether that is at home or at the park or in the grocery store. I do often notice other parents or kids glancing at his patch, which I have gotten used to. I enjoy it when they ask me why Henry needs his patch, as I see it as an opportunity to show that it is OK to discuss why some kids look different than others. When I see parents trying to stop their children from staring or asking, I go out of my way to encourage them to speak up, because nothing makes someone feel more alienated than to know others are talking about you but don’t want to address you directly. I don’t want Henry to think that is acceptable as he gets old enough to understand that.
I hope as Henry gets older he doesn’t feel embarrassed by his patch or feel different because of it, and that he will be the bigger person if another child tries to pick on him because of it. Leave it to my toddler to teach me one of the most important life lessons of all – don’t judge anyone based on their appearances. Sounds simple, but I am glad I have that reminder at home every day.