My three-year-old daughter wears glasses. She has worn them since she was a little over a year old. The first thing people say to us (after they ask if I know what causes pregnancy — we get that a lot with four children), is how much they like my daughter’s glasses. They turn to her and say things like how cute her glasses are, how they love the red and some ask if they are prescribed or just for looks.
We get a lot of questions about how we knew our daughter needed glasses. Her pediatrician at the time, gets all the credit. He noticed at her 12 month-well-exam that she was tilting her head and asked if this was normal for her. It was completely natural for her to often tilt her head. I did not know this was something I should be concerned with; I assumed it was a common characteristic given her shy personality. I am an extrovert and my two older boys do not have a shy bone in their body. Having a shy child was completely new to us and I thought it was just a tendency due to her personality. He said that could be the reason, but he also said it could be a sign of something more and referred us to our local Pediatric Eye Specialist.
Truthfully, I did not think she would need glasses.
Occasionally, I wear glasses but no one else in our family wears them. Maybe the pediatrician was mistaken. After all, when our oldest son was about her age, we had to take him to the eye specialist for the same reason. However, for him it was an optical illusion caused by the bridge of his nose being a little wider. I was sure this would be the case for our daughter.
At her appointment, we learned she has Esotropria which is a form of Strabismus. This means that due poor eye muscle control, her eyes are crossing. It was confirmed she would need glasses that would assist with straightening out her eye muscles. She was not tilting her head because she was shy; she was tilting her head to attempt to line up her vision as she was seeing double. My heart crumbled when I learned my 15 month-old was making her own adjustments to try to see clearly. How did I miss this? I feel like I failed as a mom for not noticing sooner. Being completely transparent, I also initially felt some sadness for her. Her eyes are beautiful and I was worried the glasses would cover her radiant baby blues. Now those thoughts weigh me down with guilt. She doesn’t look like herself without her glasses. Never would we have guessed her tilting her head would lead to this; we are thankful her (since retired) pediatrician noticed.
Our daughter needs glasses. What now?
This was completely new for us. I knew nothing about toddler-sized glasses or where to start looking to purchase her glasses, so I turned to the internet. A Google search left me with even more questions: Which brand? What size? Where do I find them? A friend suggested I join a Facebook group dedicated to parents with young kids in glasses. The group has been beyond helpful along our journey. We have made wrong assumptions and numerous mistakes along the way.
The past two years have been a learning experience, so I’ve compiled a list of a few things I wish I knew when we started this journey.
Her specialist’s office does fit and sell glasses, but we were able to order the glasses from my eye doctor’s office. The day she received her diagnosis, immediately following her appointment we drove there so she could try on glasses, which was our first mistake. She was tired, her eyes had just been dilated and she needed a nap. Trying on glasses was a nightmare. Knowing it would take a couple of weeks to get them in once we placed our order, I was set on the urgency of her receiving her glasses. The tunnel vision was real. Feeling overwhelmed, I was oblivious to my toddler’s needs. My suggestion is to first slow down and breathe. Waiting a day or two to order your child’s glasses is completely okay.
Once her glasses were in, I was so excited for her to try them on. I fully expected her to see so much better through the lenses. I just knew there would be smiles and she would not want to take the glasses off. Do not be discouraged if there is not an “aha” moment. Her oldest brother was recording as I slipped the pink glasses over her head and she began crying. The experience could not have been further from what I expected. She did not want the glasses and the “aha” moment I envisioned was more like screaming and crying. The following days, if she even caught a glimpse of them, she would run in the opposite direction. I was devastated. I truly wondered if she would ever tolerate her new glasses.
After weeks of screaming, we had to take a step back and reassess the situation. Instead of diving into our second attempt like we did in the beginning, we eased into it with baby steps. We began purchasing books featuring characters wearing glasses and encouraging her to wear her glasses. I updated my prescription and started wearing my glasses more. With consistency and time, she finally tolerated wearing the glasses around her neck like a necklace.
She wore them around her neck for four months. Around the five month mark, we would occasionally pull her glasses up to her eyes. She did not hesitate to pull them down every single time. Until one day, she did not yank them down. With lots of encouragement, she began leaving them on a little longer each time. Now, two years later, she only takes them off when she is swimming or sleeping.
The size of your toddler’s glasses is crucial. When we went to pick out glasses, we had to guess what size she should wear since we could not try the glasses on without her ripping them off. Once she finally started leaving her glasses on longer, we noticed they wouldn’t stay up on their own. They were at least two sizes too big. Glasses aren’t cheap; if this happens to you, try to exchange the glasses instead of ordering new ones. While a lot of offices carry children’s glasses, they are not necessarily equipped or trained to fit children. Our office was hesitant at first assuring me they fit fine, but ultimately ordered her smaller frames (two sizes down), which fit her face better and she started wearing them more and more.
Most children’s glasses come with a strap. The strap on the back of the glasses should remain loose. These particular prescription glasses should not fit like swim-goggles. We thought the strap had to be worn tightly around her head, to keep her glasses up, but this was just another lesson learned. The strap should fit loosely near the child’s neck.
Rubber ear hooks or stay puts are a must! Once my daughter began wearing her glasses regularly, we noticed they would slip down her nose and she would look over the frames instead of looking through the lenses. We constantly reminded her to push her glasses up, which she soon started doing on her own. We thought they were just too heavy, but someone in a Facebook group introduced us to Stay Puts which are removable rubber ear locks that help hold the glasses in place. This was a game changer!
We get asked a lot if she will need to wear glasses indefinitely. We are not really sure; we just take things appointment by appointment. When we started, only one eye was turning; now both eyes are turning, which according to her specialist is a good sign. We have had to patch her eye(s) a few times. The whole family acts as pirates for a while to encourage her to wear her patch. There could be a time when the glasses no longer work to straighten her eyes; in this case she could possibly need surgery. That being said, we have actually noticed lately her eye(s) turning while she’s been wearing her glasses which I mentioned to her specialist. She also had a change in prescription which could have caused her glasses to not work properly. We are going to give it a few months and see if the updated prescription helps with her muscle control.