BLOG: Getting My 1-Year-Old To Wear Glasses Was Harder On Me Than It Was For Her
Ann Zawistoski is a librarian at a small college. She is the creator of Little Four Eyes, an online community for parents of young children in glasses. She's also the co-founder of the Great Glasses Play Day, an annual event to celebrate children in glasses and raise awareness of the importance of early detection and treatment of vision issues. Ann lives in Minnesota with her husband and their two daughters.
Zoe was seven months old when she started crossing her eyes. As a new mom, I spent a lot of time asking the pediatrician or searching the Internet to find out if I should be worried about every little thing she did. By seven months, I'd started to figure out that babies were just weird sometimes, and most of the things they did weren't cause for alarm.
So I didn't call the pediatrician, because I figured crossing her eyes was another weird thing babies do. But her eyes kept crossing and at her nine-month check-up, I brought it up to her doctor, expecting to hear that it was normal. Instead, the pediatrician immediately referred us to a local eye clinic. I was stunned.
Over the next few months, as we took our now one-year-old to the eye doctor. I learned a few things:
- You can test the vision of a baby who is not verbal. Some of that is done by watching where and when a baby focuses, but it's largely done by looking at the shape of the dilated eye.
- Zoe hates dilating eye drops.
- Zoe is farsighted. Most young kids are somewhat farsighted, but she is more farsighted than normal and crossed her eyes to compensate and see more clearly. When babies or young kids cross their eyes, their brains will suppress one image in order to not see double, but this leads to vision loss and the loss of depth perception.
- Zoe needed glasses.
Even though I knew it was a possibility, I was stunned. Once the shock wore off, a whole jumble of fears crashed through my head. How would we get her to wear glasses? How do you keep a one-year-old from breaking her glasses? I can't even keep track of my own glasses, how would I keep from losing hers? Is she going to only be known as the girl in glasses? Are her glasses all that people will notice about her?
After the worries came the guilt. Guilt that I hadn't realized she wasn't seeing well, but mostly guilt for feeling upset about it. I wear glasses, I love my glasses, and glasses are not a big deal. But even though that's true, I was still pretty upset.
I'm a librarian, so when I have concerns I turn to books. In this case, parenting books were no help. Not a single one of them had the chapter I was looking for: "How to put (and keep) expensive and breakable equipment on your young toddler's face." I turned to the Internet, but mostly found tips for school-aged children who needed glasses.
Some people will tell you that if a child needs glasses to see well, they'll take to them right away. And it's true for some kids, but not for Zoe. Every time we'd try to put them on, she'd throw them off. What finally worked for us was a three-pronged approach:
- Stay consistent. When the glasses come off, put them back on.
- Stay positive. This was the hardest. She'd cry when I put on the glasses and I'd want to cry. She'd throw the glasses across the room and I'd want to scream. Instead, I'd paste on a smile and set the glasses quietly back on her face. Again.
- Distract her. As soon as the glasses went on, we'd try to find something fun in hopes that she'd forget she was wearing them.
After about two weeks, she was wearing her glasses like a pro.
In the end, nearly every one of my fears about Zoe in glasses happened: Getting her to wear glasses was a challenging, to say the least. I managed to lose her glasses twice. (Thankfully, my husband managed to find them again both times.) Her glasses were the first things people noticed about her, and she was absolutely known as the girl in glasses.
But, in the end, the most important thing is that she can see.
Vision issues are relatively common in young children. Nearly 5 percent of preschoolers would benefit from wearing glasses. Unfortunately, young kids who can't see well usually do not show symptoms that we associate with poor vision. Instead, signs can include eyes not lining up, eyes moving back and forth quickly, cloudiness in the eye, not tracking moving objects, and squinting or tilting the head when looking at things. Many kids who need glasses show no signs at all.
Because of this, it's important for our kids to have their vision checked. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vision check at three months, between six months and a year, and at the three and five years well-child visits. The American Optometric Associate additionally recommends a comprehensive vision exam between six and 12 months and again at three years.
If you believe your child is not seeing well, or your child is referred to an eye doctor, please make sure that you take your child in for a full vision exam. If you do learn that your child needs glasses, know that it's totally normal to feel upset, and that it is not always easy to convince a child to wear glasses.