Thursday, November 3, 2011

Girls Who wear Glasses

Almost a month has passed.  Again.  More than that since Clio got her glasses.  Now it's normal.  So normal, in fact, that when she is NOT wearing her glasses, I do a little double take because she looks different to me.  Isn't that funny?  Glasses-free for 5 years, then 5 weeks of glasses and somehow my Clio-picture resets.

Here's the thing, though:  the eye exam?  That was a big day.  It was not too long after the start of school, and I remember all of the first-day of kindergarten photos on facebook, all the weepy stories from my dearest mom friends sending their babies off.  I didn't get the kindergarten thing.  In Montessori, your 5-year old year is the third in the same classroom.  It's your leadership year.  While it is a big deal, it isn't a hard change.  In fact, here in the Peterson household, I was just so very glad that Clio got to go to the same school for a second year in a row.  Out one night out with a new friend from book club, I started to understand: kindergarten is when you send your small child on a big, new bus, off to a big, new school.  It is the year of major transition, from being home or in part-day preschool to the beginning of your elementary career.  As Maria put it:  there are BIG KIDS there.

This is sort of how I felt taking Clio to the eye doctor.  She hadn't done very well on her routine screening at her five year check up, and they recommended getting a full exam.  Not wearing glasses myself, I didn't quite know what to expect, and I was surprised by the number of tests and the sophistication required from children in participating.  Clio was great.  But up on the big chair, she just looked so, well, small.  And because we BOTH didn't know what to expect, I wasn't able to prepare her.  (I didn't know just what it would be like on the bus.)  But Clio is Clio and of course she was cooperative and helpful and, while tentative, also super smart about the tests.  The Doctor said she gave lots of responses and they all actually made sense.

Here's an interesting thing I learned:  apparently kids have a very strong focusing function--so strong, they tend to "focus through" any issues with their eyesight.  Once the Doctor determined she would need a prescription, he had to dilate her eyes to paralyze the focus function to see just how strong a prescription she would need.  The drops were the problem: they stung, and Clio was surprised.  She cried, and for once I sympathized, understood these were real tears, not dramatics, tears of physical discomfort, of distrust, of losing her tight grip on her reserve.  We had to wait for the drops to work, and spent twenty minutes in the waiting room, where there are no children's books.  So I read her the funnies, but of course she couldn't see the pictures well, and I realized how grown-up comics really are.  So many layers to try to explain to a five year old, a child who is whip smart but does not have a foundation in adult situations, work scenarios, or the like.

Clio needs a strong prescription.  She is farsighted, like her father, which means--I keep needing to remind myself--that she has trouble seeing things close up.  All of a sudden, I see so many images of her making art over the years, nose inches from the paper, sometimes head on the table.  It is the first time I see this for what it is--I never suspected.  For days after the exam, I wondered what she was seeing.  Marveled at the fact that this was simply the world to her, and she didn't know it could look better.  Or different.

After her appointment, they gave her kid-sized foldable glasses, and with her leopard print coat and purple patent leather shoes and sharp bob, she totally looked like a pint-sized old lady in Florida.

We had a celebration lunch, her choice.  McDonald's is always her choice, I think because of the toy in the Happy Meal.  And the chicken nuggets.  We went to the one in Uptown because it was near the Glasses Menagerie, and boy are there some crazy characters at the Uptown McDonalds.  Clio just pushed the tail on her Hanna Montana plastic dachsund, spinning fortunes in tween-speak.  Like the comics, Clio has no basis for Hannah Montana, but she thought the dog was hilarious, the saying the best.

At the glasses store, we were the only customers, and Clio insisted on blue glasses.  Her favorite color, she said, though to my knowledge she has never chosen blue for anything in her life.  Except sometimes for her cup at breakfast, but that is mostly just if Eleri wants it.  All of the glasses went in the "maybe" pile.  The process took a long time because Clio was, as instructed, so very, very careful taking off each pair of glasses, folding them up, setting them on their arms.  She chose clear frames with pale blue arms adorned with rhinestone flowers.  I let her choose, 100%.  I liked that with these, you could see her face.  I didn't even realize I was worried about that: seeing her face.  I was wondering more about a lifetime of something between her face--her eyes--and the world.  What it would mean to have glasses when she was 12, or 18, or getting married.  Because my mind works like that, you know.

We went back to McDonald's, for ice cream sundaes.  She was so excited for her caramel, but it, like the eyedrops, turned out to be an unhappy surprise--something not at all what she expected.  But the ice cream was good.

Two days before we went to pick up her glasses, she said she didn't want them.

The day before, I got a call from school after lunch.  Clio had thrown up in the lunch room.  She was resting in the office but needed to go home.  I worried that it was an omen.  Or just a bad sign, somehow.  That she would associate her glasses with being sick in the lunch room.  That it was an inauspicious beginning.

When we went to pick up the glasses, the store was crowded and it took a long time to be helped.  I had misunderstood something about the pricing on frames for her second, backup pair, and got upset.  I felt stupid, new to all of this, to glasses, to a child with eye exams.  Which is silly, because my husband wears glasses.  My brother has always worn glasses.  When my mom described the park and ride stop where we were to meet them for the state fair, the picture came to me: Oh, the place we used to go to get Rory's glasses?  I can't have been much older than Clio when those visits started.  Picking up her glasses, Clio was most excited about the case.  I may have arranged for one more celebratory dinner, but I already can't remember for sure.

The first day or two, I kept waiting for a big change.  I wondered if Clio would suddenly have a break through in reading, or if she would literally see things differently, and exclaim at the world.  She didn't.  She pushed the glasses up her nose a lot, or looked over the tops, to leave the world how it had been.  She forgot to put them on in the morning, or to take them off before pushing her face into my shoulder, crying, or laughing.  But now they are pretty normal.

She let me take her picture.

She drew a picture of herself, a girl who wears glasses.  I've been meaning to scan it, to post it here.  It's a keeper, for sure.

I felt so emotional about my little girl in this big world.  I guess I got the kindergarten experience after all.

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