About six months ago I was sitting at our pediatrician’s office waiting for the results of my daughter’s wellness visit screenings. That was when her doctor showed me the optical camera’s findings. She seemed to have slight astigmatism and may have some vision issues. He referred us to a specialist.
At this point, I wasn’t too concerned. My daughter didn’t have any obvious signs of vision issues. She didn’t squint, have trouble reading eye charts, or stare too closely at any screens (I have now learned there are many other signs as well.).
Since my husband and I have poor vision across both families, we always assumed this day would come, but it still seemed too soon. She was only five, right? From my perspective, this referral was a chance to get her comfortable with seeing an eye doctor and check for health issues.
I was not prepared for what came next.
Did you know that children often get referred to an ophthalmologist, not a typical optometrist? I did not. I also did not realize that they bill your medical insurance, not your vision plan. This one visit would cost me almost $300 out of pocket, not including any frames or lenses we may need. As we were already in the waiting room, with a receptionist who kept sneering at my whiny toddler, I felt stuck. So, we waited. And waited.
Then my daughter was given drops to dilate her eyes.
We waited some more.
Almost 45 minutes later, the doctor had my daughter read pictures off an eye chart. She only missed one. I was secretly thrilled. Since I would have missed three pictures while wearing my contacts. Surely she could not need glasses?
However, the doctor proceeded to tell me her eyesight was very poor and she would need to wear glasses full time to correct the blurriness she was experiencing.
I was floored.
I tried to ask questions, which seemed to irritate this doctor, so she left me to speak with her nurse and a medical trainee of hers while she, “resumed her schedule.”
I held it together until I got home with the kids, and then had a very tearful phone conversation with my husband. I was experiencing a rare form of mom guilt and fear. I must have done something wrong. Had I allowed too much screen time? Why hadn’t I been more aware of a problem? Was I not truly in touch with my children’s needs?
Why was I also feeling so upset about the superficial ramifications of my daughter wearing glasses? Am I feeling guilty because I don’t want glasses on that perfect little face we created? Or was I worried that she would be teased as I was once?
My husband, annoyingly calm as always, let me vent it all out, and he then reminded me that this seemed to be the exact purpose of second opinions. He reminded me that our own optometrist, whom we both trusted, saw children as well. If our daughter had to wait a couple of months before being seen (due to school scheduling), she would be fine.
We could also use that time to research. Ask her kindergarten teacher if our daughter seemed to have trouble seeing in class. Ask friends if their children have a preferred eye doctor or types of frames for kids that worked well for them. Of course, he further reminded me that this was not my fault.
During my research, I discovered that children may need glasses to correct different types of vision problems that adults do not have. Their visual system is growing so rapidly in those first five or so years. Thus, it is important to act quickly – but not rush. Most importantly, that is why choosing the right doctor is vital in understanding a child’s specific needs.
It turned out, through more than one expert opinion, she does not need glasses yet.
While I am not qualified to give you advice on this subject, I will describe my takeaways.
I learned to trust my own instincts as a mother. I remembered that her journey is not going to be the same as mine. I practiced gratitude because even if she needs glasses soon, we are very fortunate to all have to ability to see. And I was reminded that everyone deserves time to reconcile emotions with logic, even me.
We are continuing to monitor her eye needs. When she does need glasses, I will be ready.
Below are some resources that I found helpful for myself and my daughter during this optical journey.
- Reading books together about visiting an eye doctor or wearing glasses. My daughter really enjoyed the book Little Bear Needs Glasses, by Christine Faust and Bernd Penners. This book even comes with reusable stick-on glasses for the characters.
- Other moms who had similar situations helped me feel like I was not alone with my guilt. HERE is one of the many blog posts I read during my research. This was very encouraging and helpful.
- An online support group was very helpful for understanding my mom guilt. For Little Eyes – a group for parents of young kids in glasses. Or try their Facebook group.
- Learn about a child’s optical needs BEFORE your doctor’s appointment so that you may ask the questions you need most. For a start, check out this web page from the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmologist and Strabismus.