If you’ve been reading along, you know that I was contemplating getting contact lenses for my Big Girl, who is eight. Well, a few weeks ago we took the leap and did it. After a small learning curve (and a big fight with my mother), she’s wearing her lenses every day and loving it. It wasn’t an easy journey though.
We went into our first eye exam with the hopes that her eyes would be big enough to accommodate contact lenses. (Yes, the kid’s eyeball actually needs to be big enough to wear a lens.) My child has a big head and big brains and eyes to match, so we were good. The big issue, said the eye doctor, was going to be if Big Girl could touch her eye without freaking out. Good or bad, that put the success squarely in my daughter’s hands. Big Girl realized immediately that she needed to get her lens — she only needs vision correction in one of her eyes — in and out several times before she could take them home. The first tries were rough, to say the least.
Big Girl was shaking — literally. She couldn’t figure out how to keep her eye open. Once she did, she couldn’t get her finger with the lens on it close enough to her eye to get it in. We spent a good two hours at the doctor’s office before she had success, getting the lens in and out. Several times during those two hours, the woman working with Big Girl tried to get her to give up on lenses. I was fine with trying again in the future, but Big Girl was being stubborn. She was going to do it, she said. She just needed more practice. Okay, I said, we’d come back the next day to try again.
The next day was a little easier, but we still spent more than an hour at the office. Big Girl was able to get the lens in and out once or twice, but she was still shaking, and her eye was red. Again, the woman working with her we could wait six months and try again in the fall. I agreed, telling her there was no shame in waiting a while. Again, Big Girl told me no, she was going to do it. Since she still wasn’t comfortable enough with insertion and removal we set up another appointment two days later. When that morning came I was scheduled to be out on a training run, so my husband brought both girls to the eye doctor’s office. This time, I was told, Big Girl got her lens in on the first try and took it out pretty quickly, too. I got there just in time to see the smiles and hear the actual cheers all around — lots of them. She did it, and was thrilled. So was I. Big Girl was proficient enough with her lens to wear it home.
We weren’t out of the woods yet, though. The next day my husband and I had to attend a family member’s wake, so Big Girl put her lens in alone. Immediately after, we all jumped into the car, dropping Big Girl at a friend’s house while we went to a funeral home in the Bronx. A few hours later we picked her up and went to my brother’s house to celebrate his birthday. Around 6 p.m. it was time for Big Girl to take her lens out. (During the first week kids wear their lenses on a shortened schedule, adding an hour of wear every day.) She couldn’t do it, she said, after trying for more than 45 minutes. I won’t go through all the upsetting details (Big Girl crying, my mother screaming at me, the fight that ensued between me and my mother, my daughter’s extremely red eye). Instead, I’ll jump to the chase: Big Girl didn’t have a lens in her eye at all. She thought she put it in, but she didn’t. Sigh.
That night I told Big Girl she had to wait until she was nine to wear contact lenses. She was crushed, crying herself to sleep. My husband wisely intervened, telling me that by taking away her chance to try again, I was damaging her confidence. Okay, I said, we’ll try again with one rule in place: Big Girl had to let me check her eye every morning to make sure the lens was actually in there. She agreed.
That Friday we went to the eye doctor again for a re-check. We got a new trial lens — the old one dried out after she dropped it on my kitchen table — and started the process again. That was almost ten days ago. Since then Big Girl has been a contact lens whiz, putting them in and taking them out like a pro. She’s super-meticulous about washing her hands and storing her lenses. The best part is she’s bursting with new-found confidence. She is a girl on a mission. I am very impressed. Oh, and she can finally see now, which is also pretty important, right?