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Depth Perception

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Last Monday, my daughter and I went to the eye doctor. She came out with a new prescription, meant to correct the vision in each eye separately, so the stronger eye won’t improve so quickly that the weaker eye becomes lazy, unnecessary, or obsolete, putting an end to her depth perception.

During the exam, I watch my daughter’s pediatric ophthalmologist try lens after lens, asking my seven-year-old to read the letters on the screen, reducing their size until she starts making them up – calls a “Z” an “O,” calls a “B” a “Y.” We tell her it’s okay to just say she can’t read it anymore – she can’t see it – this is what the doctor needs to know, to figure out the best glasses for her eyes.

How do you determine the right lens, I wonder, or the right combination of lenses for her two eyes, to strengthen the sight in one, to maintain the sight in the other, to preserve depth perception? I didn’t go to school for this. I don’t know. But I trust this doctor.

Once we leave the clinic, my daughter and I go out for treats—one treat for each stinging eye drop. Usually it’s a small bar of chocolate, larger if there were multiple drops, multiple shots, if it was particularly hard. Today it’s lunch at Culver’s and a trip to Hole in the Wall for ice cream. As we get out of the car, she says to me, “Mami, I don’t get it. Why doesn’t the song stop?”

“What do you mean?” I ask. I have no idea what she’s talking about, but recently, she started asking for B96 radio in the car.

“I mean, when we get back in the car, it’ll be a different song.”

“No,” she says. She watches recorded shows, or turns to onDemand. Well, at least she knows what live TV is! Score One for Mami. But I’ll need to do better than this.

“Okay,” I go on. “The radio is the same for everyone, right?” I’ve explained this before. She nods. “So for each station, there’s someone who decides what songs to play. And they play songs all the time. The music keeps going. When we turn off the car and get out, it’s like we left the room while the music was playing, and when we turn the car back on, it’s like we came back into the room and there’s another song on.”

“Ohhhh,” she nods. “Now I get it.” I realize she’s spent the past week trying to puzzle that out. It’s gratifying to help her connect the dots.

But there is a nagging at the back of my mind as I start to celebrate this small success—about her need to be “normal,” about the dots we haven’t yet connected, about the teasing she gets because we don’t let her watch the newest Harry Potter movie, about her aversion to hipsters with tattoos up and down their arms in the Chicago neighborhoods we visit, about her whispering with a friend as a young girl with Down’s Syndrome approaches the pair at the pool one afternoon. My responsibility as her parent is to help her develop depth perception, and this will need to take her further than eyesight alone will go. I wonder if I have enough schooling for all of this.

She’s not the only seven-year-old who isn’t yet allowed to watch every Harry Potter movie. I know this for a fact. I spoke to another parent of a seven-year-old just the other night. (Defensive, am I?)

Still, I am grateful for the connection we made today: The car radio is for everyone and we all come in and out of listening.

This is a celebration. One connection means more will come. We’ll keep walking, keep talking, and try a new lens when things get out of whack. Testing and re-testing in the real life lab. It’s how we learn, right?

RoiAnn tried the urban artist thing for fifteen years or so, and finally found her calling as a suburban soccer mom. She has a partner (yes, a girl), two daughters – one by adoption and one by falling in love with her mom – two dogs, two cars, and two cats. And every Friday, she steals an hour or two for blogging at Are You the Babysitter?

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