Let's talk about corrective lenses for babies, shall we?

As you noticed in the Thanksgiving post, the Tiny Dark Lord is wearing glasses now, and Bebe McGooch had these questions:

. . . how did you find out he needed to wear them? My husband and I both had terrible vision until we got the laser-eyes, and I keep wondering when it's time to take C in to get his eyes checked (although I keep thinking he needs to talk first in order to communicate acuity, so I was going to wait until he's three).

For about the last 6 months we'd been noticing that the Dark Lord's eyes kept crossing. We asked his pediatrician and she said that was pretty normal. She gave the name of an ophthamologist to call if the eye crossing didn't clear up on its own. It didn't, so we took him in. Actually, I took him in, by myself, and it was awful. The doctor was very nice and patient, but the Dark Lord was having absolutely none of it. They had to bring in extra nurses to help me hold him down and pry his eyes open while he screamed the entire time like he was being dipped in boiling tar.

I was curious about how eye exams work with babies, since it's not like they can read lines of letters or tell you which image is clearer. But the doctor explained that he just dilates the pupils and shines a light in there--the way the light behaves once it gets in the eye tells him what he needs to know. Patient input is more for fine-tuning the prescription at the very end. Which . . . I had no idea. 

While waiting for TDL's pupils to dilate, the doctor said he most likely had a very common corrective disorder that he would grow out of--"Or," he tossed in as an afterthought, "he could be farsighted." Which I interpreted to mean that I was just being a first-time parent hypochondriac person. But as soon as he got the light in TDL's eyes he was like, "WOAH, farsighted." Then, to determine the prescription TDL was going to need, he held up various lenses between the light and the baby's eyes until he was satisfied that he'd found the right one. All while TDL bellowed mightily and struggled with the strength of ten water buffalo. 

So. Farsighted. By a lot. Which, to me, meant that all this time he hasn't really been able to see my face or the pictures in books or any of the things that are right in front of him. And then I almost started sobbing on account of all the awesome Mommy Guilt (plus all the screaming and flailing from earlier, and then the part where TDL threw up in the car afterward). 

I found the Little Four Eyes website later that day, which was really helpful and encouraging, and it made me realize just how many tiny kids are in glasses. It's kind of crazy to think that, unless there is something noticeable happening, we don't check kids' vision until they are about 5 years old, which means they could have spent the last five years wandering around not being able to see well. So my own answer to Bebe would be to just take your kid in now--it can't hurt, and if he does need glasses they'll be able to tell.

Then began the fun time of Glasses Shopping (hint: not actually fun). The first place we took him was Wal-Mart's optical department, because hey, if he doesn't like trying on glasses and starts screaming then that's just one more child screaming in Wal-Mart, amarite? Turns out that was a good choice because oh, the screams. So much of screaming. Like we were trying to pluck his eyes out with a fork. We tried to bribe him with M&Ms, which not only did not help but now means that every time we go back to the store he looks at me and makes the sign for "chocolate," because now he knows they keep such things there. And no, we didn't find anything there. The one pair was small enough for his face was, like, beigey pink and super ugly. 

Over the next week, we went to a couple of different optical stores, and it was just discouraging. Not only did we have to pin his arms down at his sides while we put glasses on his face (cue screams) but all the frames I like (the chunky rectangular nerdy frames) were made for older kids and were much too big for the Tiny Dark Lord. For the littles it's all wire frames and dorkiness. And yes, the employees at the optical stores explained that this was because toddlers are really hard on their glasses and the plastic ones don't hold up to that kind of abuse very well, yadda yadda broken expensive glasses facts blah. 

Finally borrowed a Sam's Club card and checked out their optical department (which it turns out you DON'T NEED a membership to use!). I'd pretty well begun resigning myself to the idea that cool nerd hipster frames were just not in the cards yet, and then the technician showed me these little metal frames that she recommends for the little ones because . . . and then she twisted those things into a flipping pretzel. And even though my stomach dropped to my knees watching her do it, it was also amazing. So I asked her to do it again--while I flinched.

And then the real miracle happened. I put them on The Tiny Dark Lord and he didn't cry. He just wore them like it was nothing. So when GH got home from work I told him all about it and we decided to go back to check them out together. 

We had to rush over after dinner, so please try to ignore how unkempt and homeless we look. (Yes, TDL's shirt is too big and yes, that is chili on the collar. From lunch.) I figured, hey, Sam's is related to Wal-Mart so the same rules apply. For Costco, now, we would have dressed up. Again, TDL wore them. He ran all over the store in them. Taking this as the direct sign from heaven that it was, we ordered the glasses, paid for them, picked them up a few days later, and . . . the Dark Lord wouldn't wear them. At all. For anything. My parents, chatting with me over Skype one night, asked how the glasses were going. Wordlessly, I took the glasses out of the case and held them where TDL (who was on my lap at the computer desk) could see them. He started shrieking, grabbed the glasses out of my hand, threw them on the carpet, and smacked me repeatedly in the chest. Which I think summed up the situation quite well.

But then Spitfire made it her personal mission to turn TDL into a glasses wearer, and I don't know what trickery or magic she used, but it worked. We also went back to Sam's and they re-adjusted the frames so they weren't slipping down the baby's nose, which helped too. And now, for the most part, he wears them. The problem is that when he decides he's done, he yanks them off and chucks them on the floor where one day one of us will step on and break them. I bought one of those straps that is supposed to help keep his glasses around his neck, but he hates the sight of it and won't put the glasses on if the strap is involved. Will have to put Spitfire on the case there, I think.

The chunky rectangular frames will have to wait a few years, but that's fine. He looks so cute that I can't even stand it. Plus he can see, which is a bonus.


marlequin said... [reply]

I am also a mother of two girls that wore glasses before two. The recommendation I've heard is that every child is checked before they are one and many optometrists will do it for free through this program: http://www.infantsee.org/
I try to tell everyone because I waited until one of my girl's eyes was wandering and now we have had to patch, lo these many years.
Also, after a month it gets much easier.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Marlequin, thanks for the link (and the encouragement)!

Ali said... [reply]

From a former optician, sounds like you need cable temples! They hook around the baby's ears and help keep the glasses from sliding and make them harder to take off. If you call around, someone can probably put them on for you. Or, next time you're in the Orem area, call Insight Eye Care in the University Mall (801-225-3920) and ask for Melissa. She's AWESOME.

Elizabeth said... [reply]

I immediately thought of another blog I read when I saw your post today - horsleyhome.blogspot.com - her little baby has adorable glasses and he keeps them on! (http://www.horsleyhome.blogspot.com/2012/05/theres-another-nerd-in-family.html).

She got them here http://www.miraflex.info/index.htm. She also recommended this site, but you might have to wait until TDL is a little older. http://veryfrenchgangsters.com/?cat=1. Good luck!

Lindsay said... [reply]

I, too, have wondered how eye doctors determine the prescription for kids who need glasses. At my two older boys' (ages 3 and 5) annual well check ups this summer, they came sorta close to failing the eye chart test. I'm not sure if it was a communication issue or an eyesight issue, but either way, given the fact the their father and myself are practically blind, we might as well add them to the vision insurance and get them checked by a professional. So I think I'm going to take them in early next year (once the insurance begins). Hopefully glasses aren't needed yet (particularly since it was the 3-year-old who performed worse), but I'm not holding my breath. Anyway, all that to say thanks for sharing this -- it was helpful.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

I need to throw in my two cents. My 5 year old started wearing glasses just a couple of weeks ago.

Because his right eye is shaped so oblong, the optometrist told us that he has probably been dealing with this since birth. She also said that he is a textbook case for why EVERY kids needs an early eye test. Kids whose eyes cross are actually lucky because they get caught early and corrected. Garrick's one eye now is so bad that a couple of the tests show that his brain may not even be taking signals at all from the right eye and we may end up patching before the month is up. Unfortunately, the symptoms for a child whose eyes cross are just the same in a child whose eyes track together--peripheral vision difficult and lack of depth perception. His right eye vision is like 20/100. As soon as the technician at the eye doctor asked him to cover his left eye and read some letters he said, "Oh, this is going to be super hard!" He knew better than I did; I just never asked the right questions.

Our general practitioner didn't catch it last year either because they gave him an eye test with letters. He kept trying to turn his head, but I just thought he didn't understand what to do and he missed a bunch but I just thought he didn't know his letters as well as I thought he did. Wrong on both counts probably.

I did an eye appointment when we had concerns with my oldest son and it was pretty much the nightmare you describe here (haircuts were the same, so just keep those curls, honey). Because it was such a nightmare I never even considered taking the other two. Now I wish I had. In fact, we are getting eye exams for EVERYone in January.

My son's was caught by a very sweet and underpaid school nurse. He keeps them on because he can finally see clearly.

His glasses are totally hipster. His choice. He didn't want anything to do with nose pads so we had to get ones that were all one solid piece. And he really is the cutest thing I've ever seen. Really. Click the link and wait for the ovaries to quiver:


Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

I'm taking a basic html class. Let me try to make thelinkactually work.

Señora H-B said... [reply]

My niece wears glasses and is super adorable. My cousin's daughter is about TDL's age and also wears glasses. She is HILARIOUS in them because they make her eyes look huge. I think it's great that you got help for him! I didn't get glasses until I was 12 and was stunned to discover that you could see blades of grass. From, like, several FEET away. I wish I had gotten them earlier. I suspect my childhood headaches would have been significantly fewer.

Emily said... [reply]

Oh yes I have done this, including the sobfest on the way home from the opthamalogist. This was after the optometrist told me she didn't need glasses because "she's only 3, what does she need to see?" (I am still so mad about this!) For kids under 5, a pediatric opthamologist is the ONLY way to go. Her current pretzel twisty glasses have lasted 2 years.... a very wise choice.

Bebe McGooch said... [reply]

Thanks so much for posting this, and thanks to your commenters as well. I really, really want to put this off (the screaming sounds awesome), but there's no reason to hold off until he can talk (and being that that is another story, who knows when Charles will actually speak, sigh).

And yes, I also used to be an optician--cable temples are the way to go with kids' glasses!

AmyJane said... [reply]

First off, I'm sorry he's not loving them, and I'm sad he maybe hasn't been able to see. But I'm glad you figured it out and I'm glad he looks so freaking adorable!

I teach these classes for our school district called "Ready For Kindergarten" that are for parents on 0-5 year olds that will enter school in the district. One of the things we go over at each age is normal/abnormal eye and sight development and some signs that you might want to have your baby or toddler checked. It's a thing.

AmyJane said... [reply]

First off, I'm sorry he's not loving them, and I'm sad he maybe hasn't been able to see. But I'm glad you figured it out and I'm glad he looks so freaking adorable!

I teach these classes for our school district called "Ready For Kindergarten" that are for parents on 0-5 year olds that will enter school in the district. One of the things we go over at each age is normal/abnormal eye and sight development and some signs that you might want to have your baby or toddler checked. It's a thing.

Elsha said... [reply]

Well he is adorable in those glasses! And it is weird to watch a baby having his eyes checked. We took Daniel in at 6 months because eye problems are so common in kids with Down syndrome. I was like- how can you tell what's going on?!

(P.S. My sister told me she was hoping he would need glasses because she thinks it's so cute.)

Lisa said... [reply]

My son also wears glasses, he is farsighted in one eye, with a minor stigmatism in his other. He has had them since he was 19 months old. There was definately a learning curve, and now 10 months later he really likes to wear them, I think he finally understands he can see better. Just a heads up, if the doc doesn't see a great improvement in the farsightedness, they may make him wear a patch everyday. That really makes for some real screaming battles! Good luck.

Lisa said... [reply]

Oh, and if you don't mind I'm going to link this post on my blog. You are saying the same thing I've said to other mothers. And others have posted great advice/experience as well.

pianochick said... [reply]

Oh how I relate to this little blog post. Our baby had the same issue - total luck that we found out that she's "legally blind" in one eye. It's especially hard when it's just one eye, because they still function as if they can see, but in one eye, they can't, so you would never know. Thankfully, we, like you - had her eyes checked by chance when she was 2, and found out. I've decided I love kid glasses - so dang cute. Also, at Primary Children's they have THE. WORLDS. BEST. opthamalogist (sp?) - We had to take our son up there when he was just 2 mos. to have his eyes checked. They had a board with two cutouts - and he would cover one eye, and put a shape in one of the cutouts (that got smaller and smaller) - as long as she looked at the cutout - he knew she could see it - make sense? Stuff like that. They were smart tools for SMALL KIDS who can't read or talk yet - to be able to tell - rather than the whole pin-down-and-torture method. It was much better, if you want to go that route in the future.

Flashlight Girl said... [reply]

When out oldest son was 3 my brother-in-law was just starting his practice in Providence. We thought we would be doing Dr. Smith a big favor by bringing thefamily in and having our insurance pay money, etc. Well itturned out that my son had a major lazy-eye issue & was far sighted in the other. No wonder he had to sit on my right side every time we read a story. It did take him a little while to adjust to the glasses, but it made a HUGE difference in his behavior when he could see! Way fewer tantrums, loved to SIT and look at books, interested in so many things! He did have to use some special eye drops & those battles were legendary. He was a look-a-like of Ralphie on A Christmas Story for lots of years. Miracles do happen though. When he started jr high, we went for his annual eye exam to discover that starting puberty & growing & being a diligent glasses wearer had changed the shaped of his eyes & he no longer needed glasses. WOW!! (We have 2 other boys who wear glasses/contacts & will never be that lucky-dang DNA)

Jenny said... [reply]

Thank you for this post! We just found our 15 month old needs glasses, and reading your remarkably similar story (down to the flailing and wailing) answered many questions I had and made me feel a little less like crying :-)

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