Two months ago, my daughter was referred to an ophthalmologist and it turned out she needed eyeglasses. Not a big deal; impaired vision is the most widespread disability in the world, and I’ve been wearing glasses and contacts for years. But I wasn’t expecting it to happen at such a young age. And, it turns out, starting to wear glasses at the age of 4 is not the easiest transition…. as I’ve learned over the past several, long weeks. In fact, multiple lessons have been learned by my family over eyeglasses.
- The desire to fit in socially and not appear different starts at a very young age. The evening my daughter got her eyeglasses went without a hitch. She was excited to initially put them on, and I could tell that she immediately saw better – which was pretty amazing to witness (especially from a guilt-ridden mom who still wonders how long she was walking around with poor vision). Then my daughter enjoyed surprising her father when we got home. But the next day on the way to preschool she started talking about how no one else wears glasses, how no one will like her glasses, and how she doesn’t want anyone to see them. By the time we got to preschool, she had taken them off and when asked to put them back on, she adamantly covered them with both her hands. It saddens me the amount of times during those first few weeks that she commented on how others won’t think she’s pretty when wearing her glasses. Where does that come from?
- Too much emphasis is placed on physical beauty. My husband and I are always trying to emphasize that our children are beautiful both on the outside and inside. But then again, probably half of my daughter’s toys, games, dolls, and screen time involve Disney princesses. When dress-up is one of her favorite pastimes, it is hard not to comment on physical appearances. Of course I want to build her self-confidence, but in the end I want it to be based on her fantastic personality characteristics, not merely her physical beauty.
- There’s no better time than now to evaluate the messages we send to our children. Have I told her that being different is okay? How much have we talked about how we each have ways that we are unique and that’s what makes us special? Have I brought up that some kids need to take medicine every day to help them be healthy, that some kids need leg braces to help them walk, or that some kids need glasses to help them see?
- Life is a lot smoother with routines. Thankfully, my daughter has finally started to adjust to wearing glasses. Some of this I know has just happened with time and less attention drawn to it. But I think a bigger part is that she got used to it being part of her routine. When something becomes part of our children’s daily life, they are prepared and know what to expect.
- Any negative can be a positive. Despite all the negative comments, crying, and flat out fits about wearing her glasses, I’ve noticed my daughter mature over the past few weeks. I’ve seen her independently go back upstairs because she’s forgotten her glasses in her room. I’ve heard her tell her toddler brother not to touch them because they are hers and she has to take really good care of them. I observed her pride when she learned how to clean them all by herself.
As parents, sometimes we forget how little changes in our children’s lives can have a big impact on them and us, as well. Teaching our children core values, building up self-confidence, creating healthy routines, and focusing on the positives can all help in making these transitions easier for them and the family as a whole.