Does your child need glasses? One of the most important things you can do for your little boy or girl is to have his or her vision tested. Years ago, when my family and another family were walking along a beach looking for sand dollars, I noticed that the other five-year-old girl spotted every sand dollar before my daughter did. My daughter was almost in tears because her pal had a whole collection and she had nothing.
If you think that glasses will make your child look like a nerd, I’m here to tell you how not having glasses as a young child caused problems in my life. You may not know how important glasses are if you were born with good vision.
I Was a Nearsighted Child
Nearsightedness is not the only reason that your child might need glasses. Some kids need correction for amblyopia, farsightedness and/or astigmatism. Well, I can only tell you what it was like to grow up without being able to see “far away.”
Somehow, my mother found a bad ophthalmologist who insisted that my eyes would improve over time. Yes, the school sent notes stating that I failed their eye-chart test, but some parents don’t have a lot of common sense. And, I think that deep down my mother was trying to protect me because I was not the prettiest child in the family and, in her mind, eyeglasses would have made me unattractive. (I’m telling you this so you won’t make the same mistake.)
Bad Vision Can Make Your Child the Butt of Jokes
When you are a child, you think that everyone sees exactly what you see and you start to feel you are stupid because you can’t do what others can do. Here are some of my early memories:
- My best friend’s brother made fun of me for not sweeping up all the dirt on the kitchen floor after spilling something. People thought I was lazy.
- Friends laughed at me because I stepped on a bee almost every day when I walked down to the lake to go swimming. I could see colors on the ground, but bees were tiny.
- I pretended to see elephants and horses in the clouds whenever my best friend and I lay on our backs looking at the sky. Forget about shooting stars or constellations. I lied and said I could see all the things that “smarter” people could see.
- In grammar school, the whole class laughed at me whenever I tried to answer an easy math problem written on the blackboard.
To this day, I have to count on my fingers because I never learned basic math. However, I can do calculus because I had glasses during later math classes, and I got almost all A’s as soon as I could read the board. Of course, now that I could “see” what teachers were talking about, I had an easy time getting high marks all the way through college.
My hope is that hearing about my childhood experiences will give you some inkling about the ways in which poor vision might alter how your child’s brain grows during that early, critical period and how poor vision could lower your child’s self-esteem. Unfortunately, I can’t find definitive scientific studies that prove my theory, but what scientist would deny any child a pair of glasses in order to conduct research on this?
Children Who Can’t See Don’t Become Leaders
I became a follower, not a leader, out of necessity. On the way home from elementary school, I learned to follow my friends so I wouldn’t get lost, and everything in my life began to be shaped by this pattern. Of course, I was chosen last to be on every team, but since I wasn’t a boy, that was no biggie.
However, what I am talking about is something far more important. I didn’t get glasses until I was 14-years-old, so I can look back on a long history of being “a follower.”
The year before I got my first pair of glasses, I was at a new school, and I ended up hanging out with some Future Felons of America because I was out of my element and I didn’t know what those kids were like. One day, because I couldn’t see well enough to find my way home in a strange town, I followed a group of hooligan boys and girls as they broke into someone’s garage and stole some beer, which I helped drink because I was “a follower.” (Actually, I had nothing to do with the break-in because I was a good kid at heart, but someone called the police and, while there were no arrests, it was not an ideal way to enter my adolescent years.)
Watch Your Child for Signs
The only reason I’m telling you this story is so you’ll know how important it is to watch for signs that your child can’t see. You do not need to wait for your child to start school and not all schools provide vision tests. Optometrists and ophthalmologists can test children at any age. And, though I don’t think you should force your child to wear glasses (unless your child is extremely young), you should make sure that your child always has a pair nearby. Find a store that offers hip-looking specs and your kid will wear them eventually.