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Column: Four eyes

Despite my better judgment, last week I accompanied my son to his annual visit to the eye doctor. My fear of optometry has been well documented in a previous column, so just as a reminder, I have a silly phobia.

I started wearing glasses in the second grade and my vision worsened over time triggering a feeling of failure each time I’d visit the eye doctor. Several years ago I let doctors slice into my cornea with a laser so I could avoid this whole eye doctor fiasco and have 20/20 vision. Life changer.

However, my role as a primary caretaker means I have to haul my kids to things I don’t like — such as subzero soccer games, four-hour dance recitals and annual exams. By the way, we’re big fans of our eye doctor, I just think the whole exam thing is somewhat torturous, even if I’m not the one in the hot seat. The bright lights, the reading of random letters, the “1 or 2?” and “2 or 1?” There is just so much pressure.

So at the beginning of the appointment, I’m reminded my son was kinda borderline for needing glasses last year, so I’m already on high alert and anxiety. From my vantage point, he passed with flying colors, although I was only half paying attention, trying to focus on my breathing and playing it cool.

Then came “the recommendation” — my son would benefit from glasses because his eyes are working too hard to see things clearly. My heart sunk. My failed vision had finally caught up with my offspring and now he’s looking at a lifetime of doom. But I knew I couldn’t let my true feelings be shown because I don’t want to create a situation in which he might show up on Dr. Phil someday.

“Yay! Eyeglasses, buddy! That’s super exciting,” I said with a strong fake mom smile all while thinking of the expense of glasses and the likelihood of him losing them and/or finding a way to destroy them on a regular basis.

The feeling was reminiscent of when the little rugrat had to get a retainer in the first grade. That high-dollar piece of plastic stole many hours of contentment. To this day, each time I drive by Thomas Jefferson Elementary, I say a silent prayer for the janitor who dug through the lunchroom garbage to retrieve his retainer on one dreadful day.

Now when it came to sharing the glasses news with my husband and parents I was immediately put off by their responses. My husband wanted to know how strong the glasses recommendation was (eye roll) and my parents said it was “too bad” he had to get glasses.

Just wait a minute right there. What’s wrong with getting glasses as a kid, aside from the occasional four eyes comment? I am clearly a testament to what corrective vision can mean to a happy and successful life, am I not?

Rather than drag the baggage of my own eyeball drama into my kid’s world, I decided to take the high road of encouragement. After all it is a gift to be able to discover this minor vision flaw and have the means to correct it. It’s also an opportunity for me to more regularly practice not acting like a complete freak show when we go to the eye care center. Who knows, I may even get the opportunity to bond with the janitor at Berg Middle School.

Contact Abigail Pelzer

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