As with most things in my parenting career, we begin with a mother who is slightly more self-absorbed than she really should be. Feeling very pleased with my published article in the back to school issue of Families Magazine, I spent some time reading and re-reading my article and swelling with pride. During one of my many read-throughs, I managed to glance at the article next to mine, which was on the importance of taking your children for regular eye-checks. ‘Drat!’ I thought to myself. ‘I meant to do that last year!’ Resolving to take my parenting job more seriously, I took on board the very sensible advice in the article and booked an eye test for both my children for the very next week.
Our first appointment made me wonder if we really were the only family who appeared to make the job of all health care professionals as difficult as we could possibly manage:
Early on, we required reinforcements to be brought in when Ana found it impossible to keep still whilst having her eye examined on the impressive looking ‘big eye machine’ and required much coaxing and cajoling from two separate opticians in order to remain still long enough to get any meaningful results.
Moving to the examination room, I cheerily answered the questions regarding my children’s eye sight with assurances that ‘No.’ they had never shown any signs of sight problems and that this was just a routine check. However, when Faith began the test proper and started identifying the letters, numbers and pictures she could see on the screen, it very quickly became apparent, even to the untrained observer (i.e. me) that she was really not doing as well as one might expect of someone with no sight problems. As the task continued, I started to wonder if maybe she had shown signs and I had just failed to notice them. It was true that she was quite clumsy and did walk into things on many occasions, but then that is also true of me and appears to be completely down to poor co-ordination and a general lack of awareness! Maybe – I started to ponder – she actually had shown signs of squinting at things and I had just interpreted this as one of her many eccentricities (and believe me, there really are many!).
The optician began to identify the apparent issues: neither eye was great, but one was significantly under par – a lazy eye that needed dealing with pretty sharpish if we were to avoid serious problems in the future. As I sat nodding my head in shamefaced silence, the realisation that I had failed to identify a significant health issue in my youngest daughter slowly dawning on me, Faith was busy driving the optician to distraction. Twenty minutes in and she was clearly fed up of the whole process. She start shifting around and moving the glasses off her nose to scratch underneath, causing them to fall to the floor on more than one occasion. The optician persisted, making encouraging comments from time to time in an attempt to keep her focused, but it was no good. Any initial curiosity had faded and now – getting on for 40 minutes after we had arrived in the shop -Faith had reached saturation point. The lovely optician quickly realised this and decided to move on to Ana, but by this time we were about 20 minutes away from closing time and I think we all knew we were flogging a dead horse. So we cut our losses and made a new appointment for a fortnight later when we would finally get to grips with who needed what intervention.
So two weeks later, when we had all adjusted to the news and Faith had started to get excited by the prospect of wearing glasses, we headed back for our rearranged appointment, blissfully unaware that it would be a full two and a half hours before we would be leaving again! After a friendly welcome from our new optician friend, things started to go downhill quite quickly. Both children were to have eye drops to help with their eye exam and we were warned that this would sting. Clearly, I should have reciprocated this warning to the effect that my children really did not do pain or discomfort with anything approaching stoicism (http://motherinferiorblog.com/2014/07/26/keep-that-nurse-away-from-me/). First up was Ana and after a good 10 minutes wrangling, including extra support and comfort from me, she finally had eye drops in both eyes and was reluctantly proceeding with her test.
Once it was confirmed that there were no major problems here, it was back to Faith and straight away we hit a stumbling block: having witnessed her sister’s objections to the drops (and not being of a naturally compliant nature in the first place), Faith was not eager to get the job done. Twenty minutes later and I am guessing the optician was wishing she had chosen a career path that avoided children in all forms because no-one was having fun as we attempted to wrestle Faith into submission and get the wretched drops actually in her eye. Once again, I wondered to myself whether all families really could create this much havoc everywhere they went or whether we were just particularly skilled in this regard.
To cut a very long (remember the two and a half hours) story short, we managed (just about) to squirt at least some of the magic drops in Faith’s eye before being sent away to wander round the shops for 20 minutes for them to take effect. Using the time wisely to search for potential Christmas presents, the girls soon discovered that the drops did have the professed effect in blurring their vision and they took a macabre pleasure in trying – and failing – to read the small print on the back of boxes.
Thus rejuvenated, we returned to the torture chamber opticians to finally complete our epic adventure. Ana’s was straightforward with a slight prescription, but nothing requiring treatment or glasses. Faith’s (naturally) was more of a challenge and eventually (possibly in a desperate attempt to finally be rid of us!) the optician completed her work and Faith had a prescription.
Of course, we were not done (oh no!) as we now had to choose two pairs of glasses. Being a bit of a soft-touch (and quite frankly, by this point, wanting anything for an easy life!) I told Faith that she could choose one special pair (with extra cost) and one plain pair (for free). It will not surprise you to discover that the lovely purple Converse glasses she chose turned out to be too big and needed 20 minutes of careful manipulation (checking – going back to adjust – checking – going back to adjust – checking…… you get the picture) before FINALLY we were able to pay and escape at 5.50pm, having arrived bright-eyed and bushy tailed for our 3.20pm appointment all those hours ago.
And the moral of this story?
Well, there are many:
- The sensible advice about eye tests: please make sure you take your children for regular eye tests as I am clear evidence of the fact that you may well not notice their sight problems in the course of everyday life.
- The advice for parents of younger children: get them in training early to be able to sit still for more than 5 seconds at a time.
- The advice for opticians: if you see my children heading your way – run!
- The advice for similarly harassed mothers: persuade someone else to take them for their sight test to avoid the embarrassment, annoyance and generally energy-sapping trauma of the whole thing!
Look at her! Butter wouldn’t melt! Don’t be fooled for a second by that innocent face!