Hey Four-eyes.. Finish your bottle, it’s bed time.

My 13 month old recently got his first pair of glasses. It hasnt been an easy ride. Firstly there are our own issues as parents. The emotional drama of getting used to giving specs to such a small child, and realising that for the rest of his life they will be something he has to rely on, and hoping that he never gets teased. Knowing that just as for me, glasses are the first thing I reach for in the morning, and the last thing I take off before I close my eyes to sleep, his reliance on them might be even more dramatic. (Not that I know how, as I have issues taking them off in the shower until I’ve lived in a place 6 months or more. TMI? 😉 Sorry.)

It’s no longer unusual for a child as young as he is to have glasses. Look around in the street and at your kids schools, and you will see plenty of kids under 5 sporting the finest in NHS visual aids. Some have straps which go round the head (seriously geek chic) others like R’s have curly ear frames, some might even be designer frames, (glance down, these kids are probably wearing uggs also.) but is has definitely become more common. However, since glasses became a talking point between us and our various doctors, I have recieved a lot of the same responses.

Glasses? Really? They do that for babies?
Glasses? How will you keep them on?
Glasses? Won’t that annoy him? (less tactful types.)
Glasses? Adorable!

This difficult choice has been much easier for us to grasp given the facts which have surrounded his visual impairment. All newborns are born virtually blind. Within the first few days, their vision improves so that they can see about as far as their mothers face when being fed. Over the first few weeks, it improves further, giving them their first glimpses of the world around them, teaching them security in their surroundings, and the ability to acquaint themselves with what is normal and familliar, and what is new and different. Each new step in vision, be it distance, or colour, or clarity, is a stage which affects all the other areas of development, and gives our children a bit more independence and understanding of their world.

As many of you know, although our son was born as blind as the rest of us were, it took somewhat longer for his eyes to mature. Until 5 and a half months, R could not see anything at all. Reliant on his other senses, he became accustomed to his surroundings, but at a much slower pace than his peers. While most mothers are eager to recieve the knowing smile that their child gives them between 4 and 8 weeks, I was given my first smile from my son at almost 6 months. The same is true with eye contact. At 7 months, when most babies are sitting up and playing unaided, and some may be starting on the road to movement, my baby boy was lying flat on his back, barely trying to lift his head up.

At that point, glasses were not an option. He didnt have a refractive error. In fact, aside from his nystagmus, which is the way his eyes move from side to side constantly during his waking hours, there was no error at all with eyes. If someone has suggested a way to improve his vision, we would have jumped at the chance. Anything to have our son look at us, smile at us, interact with us in any way at all.

And then God gave us our own incredible miracle. Pokeach Ivrim, our son was given sight. Day by day, we saw incredible leaps forward that made our jaws drop. By 9 months he was rolling in both directions, by 10, sitting unaided and playing with toys. By 11, crawling, and by 12, standing. At almost 14 months, he now walks around furniture and is reaching all the physical milestones that he should be at his age. Adding this to the new blessing of sight itself which meant he could interact and play with us, he was unreconisable as the helpless boy we watched struggle for so many months.

His vision is now poor for his age, but certainly manageable. As he gets older, we will know more about what and how he sees. Hopefully by the time he starts school, all his other development will have caught up, and he will be no different from any other child in his class.

So yes, glasses are a big deal. It’s hard getting him to agree to keep them on for longer than five seconds. It’s frustrating how every time he reaches up to explore what is on his face, he leaves baby sized fingerprints over the lenses, meaning I have to take them off and clean them. It was a challenge for us as parents to accept that he needs something on his face so constantly and obtrusively, when to us, his sight is so incredible already. It still takes a lot of effort for me to put them on him, when he seems to capable without them.

But when I think about my happy 5 month old, who would grin at the ceiling even though he couldnt see anything at all, who would play with toys with only his hands, his face turned in the opposite direction, I know that he has already come so far by himself. Anything that we as his parents can do to make the next part of his journey easier or less tiring for him, is nothing short of a priviledge.

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The 10 Real Milestones of Child Development

As a first time mum, I waited eagerly for my baby to do all the things that ‘the books’ told me he would do. Whether they came early or late, I have been so excited to see him pass these grand stages of growing up into toddlerdom.

However, during this past year, I have noticed that his real baby milestones dont seem to be listed in any parenting manual that I can find. These are not in chronological order.

1. He can push his own arms through the sleeves of his clothing. Success! No longer do I have to struggle with the most rigid little limbs known to the world, fighting against me as if I’m trying to take his elbow off rather than simply get him dressed in the morning.

2. He eats cucumber. How I ever had time to make him cooked vegetables for as long as I did is beyond me. I think I might have tried raw veg about once a week in the hopes he wouldnt just chew and chew until the entirely unmashed and whole piece of cucumber fell out his mouth. The day he swallowed it? A true triumph.

3. He can feed himself raisins. Not feed himself one raisin and then look at me for the next one. Not feed himself one raisin and then throw the rest of the packet over his head in excitement. Not turn the packet upside down and shake them into every conceivable crevice in the close vicinity. Actually hold the packet, take them out one by one and successfully put them in his mouth. Amazing.

4. He no longer looks like a mutant. Newborns-Cute or Ugly? I have always been a believer in the latter, and having my own didnt really change that. But nothing prepares you for the look your child sports at about three or four months. Newborn blotchiness gone, to be replaced with cradle cap, new eczma, half his hair fallen out resulting in bald patches, baby fat about to go crazy due to lack of movement.. Dear Lord. Luckily as a doting mother, I didnt notice it until it was over, looking back at the photos I proudly displayed. (If I’d seen what they really looked like I would have denied all relation.) Thankfully, he has passed through the ‘awkward teenage years’ of babydom, and is safely out the other side.

5. He doesnt need anything sterilised. That never ending standing by the sink with boiling hot water and bottle brushes and fairy liquid and sterilising equipment and microwaving and endless bottles and teats to scrub.. Now we just give his cup and bowl a quick rinse every couple of weeks. 😉

6. He can sit and stand safely in the bath. Not that it wasnt fun holding my breath in fear ten minutes each day.

And here are a few I’m looking forward to. Maybe you could share when they are likely to occur?

7. He can learn the meaning of words like ‘Hot’ and ‘One second.’ This would truly make my life so much easier. I wouldnt be screamed at incessantly because I’m blowing on his food, tightening the lid of his cup, moving him away from the radiators, running his cup under cold water… basically any activity that doesnt give him instantaneous attention.

8. Put his own blocks away. How do they end up all over the house? Why am I always barefoot?

9. Blowing his own nose. Adult colds are annoying. But baby colds? Why am I spending all day sorting out the sniffles? I dont think you pass out of the baby phase fully until you can reach for your own kleenex.

10. Him going out for the day. I cant believe how many days of waking up late, lounging around in pyjamas, not making any audible sound pre noon, reading a book in more than a page per sitting, watching an entire episode of Grey’s Anatomy in one go, and completing two hours work in less than six hours, I took for granted. Will I ever find ‘me time’ again?

Feel free to add your own!

Has anyone seen my baby?

I was in the library last week, and a mother I do not know saw R pull himself to standing.

“How old is he?” she asked, smiling as she offered the typical introductory question.
“Ten and a half months” I replied proudly as if his simply getting older is a personal accomlishment of mine.
“Oh wow, he’s advanced isnt he?”

Little did this stranger know how shocked I would be to hear those words. I literally had no reply as I objectively assessed my sons progress.

My boy is almost eleven months, and every day he discovers more about his world. Having not been able to see until five and a half months, and having leapt forward in all areas of his physical development in the last three months, he is very much in a ‘blink and you’l miss it’ stage of life. Every day I realise there is something new he can do, and every day he is struggling towards the next step. He was barely creeping before he was crawling, and barely standing before his new cruising trick, and I can see that letting go is only around the corner.

Hold on! Where’s my baby? Where’s the little snuffly thing that used to keep us up at night making random noises in his sleep? I think because of R’s eyesight or lack of, we experienced the newborn phase for longer than many other parents usually do. My baby was still lying on his back flailing arms and legs at 6 and a half months, when most others are sitting up and playing independently.

Maybe this is why I’m finding the last month or so, although exciting, a bit bewildering. After 9 months of endless worry and appointments, when people ask me how he is, I can finally say, (vision aside) amazing! That lady in the library was correct, he is in terms of his physical development (if not advanced) certainly not behind anymore for his age.

I am so incredibly proud of all that he has accomplished in his short life, and the perseverance which he approaches each new stage of his development. It’s almost as if he stays up all night practising, nonchalantly displaying his sitting up unaided in the morning as if he was born doing it. It appears to me that overnight he has changed from a completely dependent 7 month old newborn, to an incredibly independent, aware, and confident 11 month old toddler. The truth is he is still somewhere in between, not understanding a word that comes out of our mouths, but confident enough to try a quick taste of the radiator for funsies.

All I know is I cant take much credit for it. I’m just along for the ride. Watching my son who has already achieved so much, I can only pray that he can take this bravery, perseverance, curiosity and above all love for life, into his adulthood.