June 24, 2006

Nothin' but blue skies

When I was a kid, I wore glasses – and I hated them. They fogged up every time I walked outside in the winter, they got sweaty and slippery in the summer, and they were always breaking. I can't tell you how many times a game of pond hockey would have to come to a halt because my glasses had just gone flying across the rink. And I hated the way the frames cut off my peripheral vision. My father used to make all kinds of repairs to the glasses when they broke on weekends, one time even drilling holes on either side of a broken nose piece and wiring them together. The people who worked at the eye doctor’s took my glasses and passed them all around the office, marveling at how ridiculous they looked.

When I turned sixteen and could get a job, the very first thing I saved my money for was a pair of contact lenses. These were the old rigid contacts that took weeks to get used to, but I loved them from the start. It seemed like magic to be able to run and swim and do all kinds of activities – and be able to see clearly the whole time.

Last winter, With-a-Why's eyes went from slightly near-sighted to very near-sighted, just like mine. He continued to leave his glasses off for sports like snowboarding, but I could see that he was squinting and struggling to see the whole time. I told him that when summer came and he had the leisure to practice putting them in, we'd get him some contact lenses.

When school ended this week, we headed straight for the eye doctor's. The nice young woman there told me he would have to take a class from her -- and put them in and take them out and put them in again before he could take them home. I wondered how my very shy child would do with learning from a stranger, but the policy made sense to me.

On Wednesday we went back for the class and With-a-Why tried for an entire hour to put the contact lens in his eye. He focused intently the whole time, following Contact Woman’s directions exactly, but never got a lens into his eye. He just kept flinching when his finger got near the eye. And then his long black eyelashes would catch the lens. "I think you are thinking too much," Contact Woman said. By the end of the hour, his eyes were both sore from pulling his lids up and down continually.

"Do you think it’s making you nervous that we are watching?" I asked, wondering if he would do better in an empty room.

"The problem is not that you’re watching," he said. "The problem is that I am trying to stick something in my eye."

I used to be grateful that my kids were the cautious types not likely to stick strange objects into body orifices. This desirable quality saved us many trips to the emergency room. But now that same strong instinct was preventing With-a-Why from getting the contact lens into his eye.

At home that night, I made sure he watched while I took my contacts out and put them in again. He practiced in front of the mirror, opening his eye wide with his fingers. With-a-Why is a smart, intense kid who is used to being able to do everything right the first time, so I could tell that this was bothering him.

"What happens when I finally get one in?" he asked. "If getting them out is just as hard, I could end up with a contact lens in my eye for eternity."

Yesterday, we went back to the eye doctor's. Again, he tried for a whole hour, focusing intently the whole time. Contact Woman and I cheered him on. He was clearly getting much closer. He knew how to open the eye wide; he just didn’t like sticking anything in the eye. Again, we left without the contact lenses.

This morning we went back to the eye doctor's for the fourth time this week. I tied With-a-Why's longish hair back with a red bandana so that he would not have to worry about the hair in his eyes. He looked like a pirate. An intent, serious pirate. By this time, everyone in the office knew us, and they all smiled encouragingly at him.

Again, he sat down at the white table, following the instructions exactly, patiently trying again and again. And this time – success! He got a lens into his left eye! Contact Woman and I cheered. He smiled his shy smile. And then he got the lens into his right eye! He’d made the breakthrough of sticking something into his eye.

For the first time, he looked around and could see the world clearly without glasses. Excitedly, he read the signs on the walls. He stood shyly near the register while I filled out the paperwork to order him a supply of contacts. He kept glancing up now and then with his big dark eyes. I remember that feeling of being able to see without glasses for the first time – it's like magic.

Then he took off the bandana, shook the hair back into his eyes, and we drove home.

31 comments:

Scrivener said...

A couple of years ago, I tried to get contacts. I spent three or four days going in and trying to stick things in my eyes, but the closest I ever got was to get one on my cheekbone once. I'm impressed that he managed to do it.

Ianqui said...

Heh. I remember having to do that. But now I canNOT imagine life without my contacts. Amazing invention, they are.

Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

That is so great that he was able to do it! I'm like Scrivener: can't put anything in my eyes. Even eye drops just get squirted down my cheeks; nothing in the actual eye.

Chip said...

I remember the first time I tried to put in contacts, I was back in college I think. It was really hard to stick something into my eye! Glad With-a-Why stuck it out and got them in, you're right, it is like magic to be able to see clearly without having glasses on.

Autumn said...

I just got contact myself a few months ago! They're magic. I just sort of kept saying, "this is so cool" over and over. I had peripheral vision for the first time in ten years.

I love them.

Molly said...

This trick might help: have him look up at the ceiling and stick the contact in the bottom white part of his eye. Then once it's in, slide it up into place. It's a whole lot easier than poking your pupil.

Lisa C. said...

I had to go to a very Zen state when I learned to put in my contacts. It took me several tries/visits to do it once, and it was a few months before I could plan to take less than 20 minutes to insert them in the morning. I learned that I had to let my eye go out of focus, then put the contact in. I couldn't see it coming that way.

I love my contacts. It was totally worth it.

ariberkana said...

That's great that he finally got them in his eye!

It took me two lessons at the eye doctor before I was able to figure it out. I had an "ah-ha!" moment when I realized that, by looking in the mirror when I put the lenses in, I was freaking myself out about putting things in my eye. So, I don't use a mirror anymore!

Yankee T said...

It took Younger Daughter two hours and an impatient doctor, but once she got it, she was thrilled.
Congrats to WAW!

Mrs. Coulter said...

Wow, it's been so long since I got contacts I can't even remember learning to put them in. I suspect that I have abnormally low "don't put something in your eye" reflexes, because I can pop them in and out without hardly even blinking (so to speak). I don't need a mirror or anything.

I thank the stars every day for contact lenses, as my eyesight is bad enough that even the ultra-thin glasses lenses distort the world in a disorienting fashion--walls in my peripheral vision bend and curve, while the depth of stair treads is difficult to judge.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Yay for With-a-Why! LDH could never get contacts - he can't get anywhere near his eyes. I, on the other hand, have been told that I have no blink reflex; I don't wear contacts (though I have for brief periods in the past), but my allergies bug me so much when I get something in my eye that I have to dig around to get it out. But it is really pretty counter-intuitive to put something in your eye on purpose! Glad he can enjoy the world now.

elswhere said...

Hooray for your brave, cautious child!

When I was about his age and knew I was going to be getting contact lenses soon, I used to lie in bed and practice touching the whites of my eyes, just in the corner at first and then moving closer to the middle, so I'd be ready.

I was a kind of weird kid, though.

wolfa said...

It took me a horribly long time (much, much, MUCH longer than With-a-Why) to be able to put contact lenses in. For a while I had other people put them in on special occasions. (I could take them out from the first.) Now I have no problem, but I do it in a really weird way, though it paid off when I destroyed my right index finger and could put them in anyhow because of my weird method.

Though recently I've stopped wearing them regulraly. Then sometimes I put them in and think wow! I can see so well! Why don't I wear them all the time? And then the next day I'm back to glasses.

Anyhow, congrats to W-a-W. (W-a-Y?)

liz said...

Hooray for contacts!!! I love mine. LOVE. them. Congratulations to w/ay

Kate said...

Yay for With-a-Why!

Contacts are great. When I got my first contacts my problem was not getting them in, but taking good care of them. I got conjunctivitis a number of times. Then I finally started following the instructions properly and haven't had a problem since. Now I have monthly disposables and it's even better.

Friday Mom said...

Yea for With-A-Why! That's some amazing determination.

will smama said...

Oh yes, I remember! It was like a miracle...

SingingOwl said...

I remember too. I went from coke-bottle glasses to hard contacts, but it was truly like a miracle. The sad part was that after I got pregnant my eyes changed and I could never wear them again. It was weird. But I had cataracts removed and lens implants put in, so at least my glasses are normal and not like those coke bottles. Well, I'm glad that What-a-Why won't have to deal with the pregnancy thing!

Mel said...

I remember my first contacts too...glad he got over that hurdle!

Dale said...

What I love most about this post, actually, is the loving gentle encouragement that is just off-camera. You clearly did a terrific job of setting it up so he could succeed.

(Not to denigrate his efforts at all. Congratulations to both of you are in order.)

susan said...

When I was in the 5th grade, I broke a pair of glasses by sleeping in them, because I wanted to know again what it was like to be able to see across the room when I woke up. This post brings back memories of my own wondrous experience with contacts in high school. I've since gone back to glasses pretty happily, but it was pretty cool to see w/o glasses for a while. (I just couldn't deal with the gas permeable lenses I ended up needing after my astygmatism got worse--too uncomfortable.)

Teri said...

woohoo for the eye-poking! It too me the whole hour too, but I had to do it because my mom told me that we were NOT GOING BACK if I didn't do it during that hour.

I now use the "look up and stick it in the bottom" trick too.

and I now have those incredible contacts you get to sleep in for two weeks...so I only have to take out/put in contacts twice a month unless I have an eye emergency with dust or something.

OneTiredEma said...

I am super impressed that anyone puts contacts in. Honestly, I can't get anywhere near my eyes with anything. When a friend was doing my makeup for my wedding, she practically had to sit on me to get mascara on. (But on the other hand, I don't spend much on beauty products!)

joanna said...

I can empathize-in fact, i wrote everal posts about lenses on my blog in January. I had to get used to the idea of pinching them out on my eyeball. Oy.

jar said...

I'm so impressed that he did it. I haven't yet been able to even thing about getting them though I hate the glasses.

ScienceWoman said...

I got contacts when I was about with-a-why's age and I remember several weeks where putting them took at least 20 minutes in the morning. Last summer, I returned to glasses, but there are still some days when I really wish I had my peripheral vision.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

I got a six pairs of monthly contacts, right before the first wedding where I was a bridesmaid, four years ago. I wore them for that wedding, and then again when I was a bridesmaid a year later, and I attempted to wear them for my wedding, but I caught a cold and wore glasses instead.

But, for some reason, this post inspired me to open up the fifth packages and put in contacts.

Arbitrista (formerly Publius) said...

When I had contacts 10 years ago, it took me a long time to get good at putting them in. In fact, I never did get any good at it - which is why I went back to glasses. That and because the prescription ran out and I'm cheap.

Rana said...

I'm impressed by his perseverance. I'm glad, too, that the contacts work for you, and for him, after all that.

I tried contacts for a while -- gas permeables, again, for astigmatism, but also because I didn't like the soft focus of the soft lenses. It didn't take well. It wasn't so much that they were uncomfortable, or hard to put in and take out, as that they required me to be clean and careful with them. Plus, I found myself prone to walking into sticks and missing the gestures that went along with wearing glasses.

I've thought about updating my prescription, though -- just for those occasions when glasses are in the way. So far, it's not been worth the effort or expense. But that's me.

Lilian said...

I've been wearing contacts for almost 17 years now and I'll never forget the day I first got them at a store in a large mall. It was amazing to see everything so clearly. I do hope I can have eye surgery someday and not have to worry about the contacts (they're one of the main themes of occasional nightmares I have e.g. they are huge and full of dust and I can't put them on, etc...) :)

I hope your son gets to enjoy his contacts fully and becomes an expert in putting them on and taking them off! It definitely isn't easy in the beginning - it took my husband quite a while to learn too.

Erin said...

The first time I tried to put in contacts was in 7th grade. No success. I had to wait two years before we tried again (why?!), and by the time I was in 9th grade I was so desperate that I walked in, pratically ripped them from the woman's hand and had both in in seconds flat. I have never had a problem since!

I love my contacts!