This will be my first post in a continuing series, “Comparing Notes”, where I (or a guest blogger) will discuss gender differences as it relates to some aspect of raising our kids. Hope you enjoy it and if you’re interested in being a guest blogger for this series, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email me via my Contact form. (Please note that parents raising both genders would be ideal candidates for guest blogging, but I am open to anyone contributing!)
We knew it was coming. After Little Dude essentially failed his eye exam at his annual checkup, we knew he needed glasses. Frankly, I was a little shocked that he might need glasses at such a young age (8) since both my husband and me did not need them until college. We took him to an ophthalmologist, who confirmed that indeed he would need glasses soon. She held off for about a year and then when he started 3rd grade this year, the doctor said it was time.
I immediately worried about how Little Dude would handle needing to wear glasses. I recalled my own experience in college, when I finally admitted to myself that I could not see a darn thing in those expansive lecture halls.
“Why is the Professor writing so lightly on the board? It’s so hard to see!” I complained to my friend.
“Emily, you better take yourself to Lenscrafters. I think you need some specs,” she bluntly replied.
It turned out that another college friend also discovered that he needed glasses so the two of us went to the mall together to pick out our frames. My friend picked out a handsome pair of wire frames that seemed to naturally belong on his face. I tried on frame after frame and nothing seemed to look right on my freckled cheeks. He finally convinced me to go with peach-colored plastic frames, which seemed to blend with my skin. Except, there was only one problem: I hated wearing them. I only wore them in class if I absolutely needed them. Otherwise, I refused to wear them, especially out in public or in front of my boyfriend. I was as self-conscious as Jan was during that “Brady Bunch” episode. Okay, I know I’m dating myself here, but if any of you grew up in the 1970’s, you’d recall when Jan had to get glasses and subsequently took them off when she rode her bike to see her friends. Poor Jan crashes her bike into the garage and realizes from then on that she must wear her specs. Well, I wasn’t about to wear my glasses on my bike or driving my Honda around campus. No way, Jose. Watching me squint at the movies one night, my boyfriend (now my husband) suggested I try wearing contact lenses. Which I did. I was a contact lens convert within days. And just like that, my self-confidence was restored by Bausch & Lomb.
Little Dude, only in 3rd grade, cannot go the contact lens route yet. Maybe in a few years, but for now he’s gotta wear those glasses. I did what any parent would do and told him how handsome he looked (which he did), how the other kids will think it’s cool (which they did), and how he’ll love being able to see the board (which he does). Just in case, I emailed Little Dude’s teacher ahead of time to forewarn him about this transition and how my son might be a little self-conscious to wear them at first. I told him my son might need some gentle encouragement to wear the glasses. When I drove him to school the morning of “day one of glasses” he said he thought he might feel embarrassed wearing them. I said all the right things (I think) and reassured him that some of the kids won’t even notice and the others who did will think they look cool. My husband didn’t think the other kids would pose a problem, because as only a protective father could say, “he’ll just kick that kid’s butt if he teases him.” I rolled my eyes, but I knew he was right.
And that’s where the boy versus girl comparison comes in. When it comes to debuting that first pair of eyeglasses, I think that young boys may have an easier time with the situation than girls. A young girl will surely worry about how she looks and more importantly, what her friends will think. A girl in those awkward middle school years will most certainly worry about whether the glasses make her look “ugly.” I think a young boy is not really concerned with how he looks all that much. My son’s biggest concern was how he’d wear glasses when playing baseball. (Thank God for those cool-looking Rec Specs!). He too may be anxious about what the other kids will say, but as my husband so vividly pointed out, if you’ve got the kind of kid who doesn’t take crap from others, he’s got nothing to worry about in the peer department. My Little Dude is as sweet as they come, but he’s also no pushover. If you cross or insult him, you’ll know it. Little dudettes won’t necessarily be throwing punches if someone makes fun of their new glasses. Those girls may fight back with words or else they will go home and sob, and will proclaim that they’ll never wear their eyewear ever again. Just like self-conscious Jan on the Brady Bunch.
My son was oh so smart about how he handled the change. He told his classmates ahead of time that he got a new pair of glasses, which he’d be bringing to school the next day. He talked about it like he was bringing the latest and greatest Xbox game to school. The kids couldn’t wait to see his new “toy.” When Little Dude pulled the glasses out the next day, his classmates all told him how good he looked. He felt so comfortable wearing them that when I picked him up from school, he was still wearing the glasses, which he really only needs for distance at this point. After only one day, he was a confident, eyeglass-wearing boy. He was no Jan Brady!
I do realize that this whole experience was more about me, and my traumatic memories at a Lenscrafters in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1987 than about my son’s new glasses. But still, I do think us ladies, whether young or old(er), have a wee bit more ego invested in the eyeglass department. I am now 47 years old (I can’t believe I just put that in print) and guess what happens at this age? I now need reading glasses. So far, I have only worn them in the privacy of my home. But, one of these days, very soon, I’m going to learn a lesson from my very own son, and wear my reading glasses out in public with confidence and pride.