Wasn’t I just waxing nostalgic about how I miss the helpless baby days, but saying how great it is now that the kids can do lots of things themselves? I think I was. Which is tantamount to holding a sign up to the universe and inviting it to please come show me the error of my ways, preferably in the most humbling way possible.
Ah, yes. There is nothing that says PRECARIOUS CUSP BETWEEN BABYHOOD AND SELFDOM like the tween years, and nothing that says WELCOME TO PURGATORY like that tween with a new pair of contact lenses.
You do remember that Chickadee was all jazzed to try contacts, right? And I said I wasn’t sure she was old enough, but then all of you left comments about how young you were when you got contacts, and because I like to take advice from people on the Internet, I figured, “How bad could it be?”
I was in an interesting place with this, actually, because on the one hand I remember DESPERATELY wanting contacts at her age, and on the other hand, I remember all the trouble I had with mine, long ago.
To be fair, when I first started wearing contacts at 11 or 12, soft lenses for astigmatism didn’t yet exist. So I had a pair of “gas permeable” lenses which the optometrist assured me were MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE than hard lenses. I’ve never worn hard lenses, so I don’t know if that’s true. It might be true. Maybe wearing hard lenses is a lot like walking around with a slice of brick in your eye; I have no idea.
Anyway, they trained me up and those suckers were pretty uncomfortable, but it all seemed to work okay. I mean, except for the part where the lenses would periodically LEAP out of my eyes, unbidden. Basically, any time my eyes were a little dry (read: most of the time), I was at risk of a simple blink sending one or both lenses flying into the air. And then I got to have the joy of dropping to my knees—unable to see, keep in mind, because of the missing lens—and feeling around for the rogue contact which I felt certain my parents would kill me over if I couldn’t find.
I forget how long that lasted. But then, toric soft lenses were invented! And I got a pair of soft lenses, which were MUCH more comfortable! But here’s the thing: Because I’d grown used to the blink-extraction method of the gas-permeable lenses (just pull the outer corner of the eye taut and blink to shoot the lens into a waiting hand), I was completely wigged out by the process of removing a soft lens. The whole “put two fingers in your eye and do a pinch/sweep” thing was somehow terrifying to me. Perhaps I was worried that I would inadvertently pluck out the eyeball itself. I have many a memory of becoming hysterical over trying to remove my lenses, and also of a couple of times my mother had to try to take one out for me.
So I was a little nervous, but off we went.
[Side note: I cannot wear contacts for any length of time because my eyes are too dry. Which is hilarious, if you ask me, because I'm the person who cries at the drop of a hat, copious amounts of tears at the slightest provocation, and yet I cannot keep my eyeballs moist enough to host a vision aide. Life is cruel sometimes.]
The optometrist put the lenses in Chickadee’s eyes and she blinked a whole bunch and said “They feel weird.” Then she blinked some more and started to grin, and finally she was fairly dancing around the store, declaring that it was SO WEIRD not to have her glasses on her face yet to be able to SEE. And I told her it was very odd to see her pretty face and gorgeous eyes without her eyes crossing; she’s worn glasses since she was a toddler, for severe strabismus (or “wonky eyes,” as we like to call it), and so I haven’t seen her unfettered face with uncrossed eyes since she was a baby.
(It was kind of awesome.)
Then the optometrist instructed her in how to take them out, and she attempted it and had some trouble, and she got a little upset, and we calmed her down and explained again, and then she popped them out easily.
And then it was time for her to put them in herself, and thus began an hour-long ordeal.
Did I mention the crossing eyes thing? I make jokes about being blind, but Chickadee is pretty close to actual blindness without correction. She sees double, and a very blurry double, at that. While attempting to put in her contacts she repeatedly mashed the lens into her upper lid, the corner of her eye, or sometimes the bottom lashes—everywhere but HER EYEBALL. Eventually she got one lens in, but after twice as long on the second one, I put it in for her.
They retested her vision and sent us on our way to try the lenses for a week.
That night, Chickadee deftly removed the lenses (on the first try), cleaned them carefully, and put them away. And she gave me a huge hug and thanked me over and over for letting her try contacts.
The next morning, she spent forty minutes trying to put them in before begging me to do it for her. I made her stand in the corner of the bathroom behind the door (so that she was trapped and couldn’t flinch away!), and popped both lenses into her eyes in under thirty seconds. “Wow, that was so easy!” she marveled. I reminded her that she would need to PRACTICE, so that she can DO IT HERSELF. She agreed. And then we were off to the day’s activities. That night she took them out again with ease and cleaned them and put them away.
The morning after that, she tried for half an hour before she came begging for me to do it for her. Again I popped them in pretty quickly and told her she’d need to practice. She agreed. We went about the day. She tended to them that night and I reminded her, again, that she’d need to practice. “Okay, Mom, but could you just put them in for me tomorrow morning for school? Please?”
“Chickadee!” I said, exasperated. “You have to learn how to put them in yourself. What are you gonna do—take me to college with you so that I can put in your contacts?”
She giggled. “I think I’ll probably figure it out before then,” she offered, not sounding much like she believed it.
This morning she was waiting for me when I walked into the kitchen, and immediately wedged herself into the nearest corner so that I could put her lenses in for her.
I sighed. Part of me feels like maybe I should say she’s not allowed to wear them until she can put them in by herself… but she’s worn them for several days with no (other) problems, and she LOVES being able to go without her glasses, so maybe I just continue going with the flow and trust she’ll figure it out? I popped them in and gave her the case back to put in her backpack.
She surprised me with a giant hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you,” she whispered, while letting go. Then: “I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to do it myself by high school. Don’t worry.”
Dude, high school is THREE YEARS away. What have I DONE?