I took Ellie to the eye doctor last week. Well, Ellie and Gus. They both got to go because the ice in Arkansas closed their schools. My husband was in court, so I loaded up my two emotionally unstable Tasmanian devils who only want to “do it myself, Mama” and off we went to terrorize the office staff and other patients in the waiting room.
Ellie has had a prescription for eye glasses since before she ever even went outside and felt the actual sun on her face. When she was first born, we noticed the nystagmus responsible for the back and forth that happens with her eyeballs when she is tired.
Cleared by the bedside neurology team, we were told that kids with Down syndrome can be diagnosed with this or another problem affecting the muscles in their eyes.
Low muscle tone and Down syndrome go hand-in-hand. From arms and legs to their throats and eyes, pretty much every muscle is weak and that causes delays.
“She really does need to wear her glasses as much as possible,” the eye doctor told me. My little girl had suddenly grown into a big girl who sat all alone in the adult-sized chair for her eye examination. I watched in disbelief as she followed directions, covered one eye and told the doctor about the “house” or “dog” or “cat” she saw on the screen about eight feet in front of her.
In the beginning we bought specialty glasses made to fit her differently-sized Down syndrome nose, but they aren’t practical. Ellie can push the lenses out of the frames, a trick that she most likes to perform when we are driving on the interstate and I am unable to stop her from putting said lenses in her mouth. The prescription for each of her eyes is different, so I have no idea if I have put the lenses back in their correct side or if I have them flipped backwards.
“We have these other glasses that might fit her better,” the doctor said when I explained this to her, “and she can’t pop the lenses out.”
“Sold. Give me two pair,” I told her while wrestling with the double stroller, my purse, two cups of milk and the tornado twins.
About two years ago, on the ride home from a loud, messy stressful dinner with the entire family, my husband told me, “We are never taking our kids out to a restaurant again until the youngest is 5 years old.” But last week, he made an exception.
We started out at our neighborhood sushi restaurant, ever hopeful that the chef could come up with some fried chicken, French fries or grilled cheese option for the kids, but there was a wait and the kids were too hungry.
We ended up at the Mexican restaurant we love that serves locally-procured vegetables, fruit and meat but most importantly has chips and cheese dip.
The waitress brought over our first round of drinks and cheese dip. “I love your glasses,” she said to me.
In an effort of solidarity, I have started wearing my glasses more than my contacts to encourage Ellie to wear hers. One day, it occurred to me that if I modeled the behavior, she might be more interested. I remembered how I felt when I first got glasses in junior high and how embarrassing it was.
Wearing glasses wasn’t the fashion staple it is now and there was a small selection to choose from at that time. The big gold wire-rimmed glasses I had hoped would be least noticeable seemed like they could be seen from space.
I ended up squinting my way through school and kept the glasses in their case in the console of my Bronco so I could put them on if I was ever pulled over by the police since the clerk at the DMV had added “corrective lenses” to my driver’s license.
If another person in Ellie’s home was wearing them, maybe it would seem more ordinary and not something else that she had to do.
“Thank you,” I told our waitress and smiled.
When she came back a second time to bring the kids’ quesadillas, she said to Ellie, “Oh, I really like your glasses too! Those are so cool.”
Ellie looked at her, eyes smiling and with cheese dip on her nose and cheeks confidently, verbally said, “Thank you” as she placed the heel of her left hand on her chin and folded her fingers out in front of her to reiterate it using sign language.
Gus said to her, “Those are so cool glasses, Elwie.”
She cocked her head to the side and smiled at Gus.
“Mom, can I wear glasses like Ellie?” Jack asked from the other side of the table.
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