“I can see clearly now, the rain is gone; I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind–it’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day!” ~Bob Marley, I Can See Clearly
Just before my kids’ birthdays last month, my Ex dropped them off with a note that Elena Grace had just had her annual eye check-up, and that he’s been having to scold her about holding her books too close to her face, so I should make sure to do the same. That struck me as a strange set of instructions.
In my experience, when people are holding reading materials in odd places, it’s often because they’re having trouble seeing them. So I started asking questions on our drive home from karate practice, launching the topic with the observation that I’ve been having difficulty seeing street signs ahead (I actually did have to ask my son Christian what street we were coming up on–his eyes are still sharp) and that it’s obviously time for an eye exam for me.
I got my first pair of glasses when I was almost exactly the same age Elena Grace is now, and I remember the absolute awe with which I discovered that I could see individually defined leaves on each tree. Until that afternoon, I didn’t realize I was supposed to be able to see more than a green blob at the top of every tree trunk. I was in glasses and contacts for the next couple decades–bifocals by the age of twenty, and by almost-thirty I couldn’t see anything in any range without my glasses.
That’s when I had Lasik surgery, and wow, what a life-changer! Being able to SEE the bedside clock in the middle of the night, or the kids at the pool, or the stars when we were camping out… Wow. Everything from backpacking and scuba diving to middle-of-the-night nursing was suddenly simpler because I didn’t need to mess with glasses or contacts–or navigate through the world-in-blur when I was without them.
Today, nearly ten years post-surgery, my eyesight is still far better than it was even at age eight, let alone twenty-eight… but I have noticed I’m having to strain to focus on things at a distance, and even the computer screen hasn’t seemed quite as sharp as I know it should be. I’m happy to say I can function without the glasses–so I won’t be messing with them on camping trips and the like–but it was definitely time to get a pair again. And in the course of that driving-conversation with the kiddos, it became pretty clear that it’s time for Elena to get some as well.
She’s been having to get out of her seat in school to read math problems on the board. Enough said!
Interestingly enough, both kids were quite certain that Dad wouldn’t take her for glasses, having just “used up” the eye exam for which his insurance pays, and having elected already not to get glasses for her. (And whether or not it’s true, I find it interesting that they both think that of him. For the record, they volunteered the opinion; I didn’t plant the seed of doubt by asking.)
For my part, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t take kindly to a suggestion from me on the topic; he’d take it as a critique of his parenting, and he’d consequently be invested in proving she didn’t need glasses–which wouldn’t be any help to her. So I asked if she would like to go have her eyes checked with me.
Her answer? “Oh YES! That would be the PERFECT birthday present!” She was quiet for the last few minutes of the drive–a rare circumstance–but as we pulled up to our trailer she piped up with this: “You know, Daddy’s house has more money–but this house has more caring.” (Once upon a time, I might have thought I’d feel a little bit of triumph in such a moment–but now I’m here to tell you there’s nothing but heartbreak in hearing my Little One feel that way.)
So… For their birthdays Keoni baked cupcakes in ice-cream cones, we gave Christian his owl, and Elena Grace and I went to the vision center at WalMart to get fitted for glasses. Because–surprise, surprise!–she does need them.
And–surprise, surprise!–her father was displeased. She’s positively thrilled herself, listing off all the things she can SEE now–including, importantly, the board in her classroom. The Ex, however, emailed me that night to say he “doesn’t appreciate being accused of being an unobservant parent.” Which is interesting because the only thing I’d SAID was that she couldn’t see the board in school. But it’s true I’d been THINKING it. I’d been thinking that the kids are with him the majority of the time, and it’s ironic that the “weekend parents” are the ones who notice that Elena needs glasses, or that Christian has developed a lactose intolerance, or that her so-called “acne” is actually a staph infection, or that he’s struggling with anxiety issues, or… Well, that we notice the kids.
Unfortunately, what the Ex is likely to take away from this is not the idea that he might do well to pay more attention to his kids, but that I’m a bitch who made him “look bad.” It’s just how he sees the world–through a “Victim” set of spectacles–and that’s been true for years.
And while I’m tempted to pray that God might fit him with a new pair of glasses (metaphorically speaking), my A.A. Sponsor reminds me regularly that I can’t change other people. Her prayer-prescription for an Ex-Spouse is this: “Bless him. Change me.”
So I’m reminded that my job is to focus on sharpening MY vision. And after all, it’s looking like a pretty sunshiny day. Just ask that cute kid in the new pair of glasses.