It was a simple word scrawled in the corner of the vision screening form. The La Plata Lions Club offered free vision screenings earlier this year at my children’s daycare, and Ollie’s test had come back abnormal.
“What does that mean?” I’d pressed my husband. Spencer knew nothing more than I did — just that Ollie had been “referred” for a full eye exam based on the screening. We had to take it from there.
I’m embarrassed to say it took us several months to follow up. Why, you ask? We saw little to suggest Oliver had vision problems. We’d noticed nothing more serious than the occasional squint. He was writing, reading, playing, and watching TV with nary a complaint.
In hindsight, of course, Ollie wouldn’t have mentioned it; he didn’t know anything else, nor understand what he was seeing. Or how little of it he was seeing.
I finally set him up with our family’s longtime optometrist — the same doctor who prescribed my first pair of Sally Jessy Raphael-style red glasses in third grade. I really didn’t think anything was wrong, but wanted to make sure.
Dr. C has a soothing demeanor I knew would jive well with an energetic 4-year-old. When the week of Ollie’s appointment arrived, I began talking up the whole experience. We get to check out cool machines! It’s easy and fun! I tried to stuff my nervousness down as deeply as I could, where my son would never see.
Oliver is full of questions. He must have asked me 12 times if Dr. C had “laser shots” (not sure where the “laser” part comes in). I told him no, no shots, which was true. And then I told him again. And again.
It’s OK — I get it. There’s little in life that kids can control, and Ollie likes to have all the information he can gather to feel comfortable. He needs to be prepped. If I walk Oliver through “the plan,” he immediately repeats it back — and we must stay on course, no matter what.
It takes time to get to know our children, doesn’t it? They start out as these tiny, sleepy strangers, perplexed at having entered our world. And in time, their personalities mold those tiny features into looks of delight, annoyance, surprise. I know my son well enough now to set us up for success. We talked through what to expect — and thankfully, he cooperated.
As Dr. C continued with the exam, I knew we weren’t walking out of there “empty-faced,” if you will. That wasn’t my first rodeo. I’ve worn glasses and/or contacts for 25 years. My vision is horrible, but my husband’s sight is perfect . . . somehow I just assumed our children would take after Spence.
Finally, Dr. C turned to me. “Well, this is one far-sighted guy,” he said.
The conversation was a blur (!), but Ollie apparently has a major focusing issue — so major that Dr. C stressed his eyes have to work very hard to see clearly at all. I was so surprised that I only realized I should be taking notes halfway through his talk.
We’d noticed a little squinting . . . but certainly nothing to suggest our son could barely see.
With Ollie’s fresh prescription, we went to choose a pair for full-time wear. I asked for the most durable option they had. My preschooler was stoked — stoked! — to be picking out glasses. I felt like I was going to cry. How had we not noticed that Oliver had such serious vision problems? And how the heck was I going to convince a child who never stops moving that he needs to be careful and keep these things on his face?
When we came back a week later to pick up his order, Ollie was shaking with excitement. He’d asked me daily if his glasses were ready. Watching him slip them on for the first time, his brown eyes were huge — literally and metaphorically. Ollie’s mouth fell open, and he blinked at me in surprise.
“Hi,” I waved. “Can you see me?”
Ollie nodded, awestruck, and my own eyes filled with tears.
With the particular issue Ollie has, Dr. C said it’s remarkable that the preschool vision screening picked up anything abnormal — so thank you, La Plata Lions Club, for offering this free service to our kids!
Oliver is seeing so much better; to my surprise, we barely had to remind him to keep his glasses on at home. He was excited to show his friends at school on Monday . . . and I was so anxious to hear how the day went.
It really is a whole new world.