When my wife and I first made C’s glasses 26 months ago, the lenses were at 200 degrees (each!). No doubt high for an eight-year-old. But since we ourselves were bespectacled (his brother too), it wasn’t surprising.
Disappointing yes, but not surprising.
Sadly, four days ago, we were dealt another blow when we visited the optician.
Apparently, our already heavily-bespectacled C had been an unfortunate victim of the pandemic.
Or more accurately his eyes were.
The additional screen time that invariably accompanied the global lockdowns these past 16 or so months, had seen his eyesight deteriorate not 100, not 200, but a whopping 300 degrees more!
Contrast that with my visit less than two months ago when my eyesight was found to have risen just 50 degrees or so.
I want to pin the full blame of what happened to C on the pandemic, but I can’t. As his parent and caregiver, the blame falls squarely on my shoulders.
It’s the “burden” all parents carry when raising children.
Too blind? Too tired? Or just too lazy?
In a Bloomberg article published two months ago, it was reported that many are seeing a spike in myopia across the globe.
Studies done in various countries including Britain and China, saw more people developing this most prevalent of ocular disorder. The worse hit? Kids 6 to 13 years of age. In China for instance, 2020 saw the incidents of myopia there increase threefold compared to the period 2015 to 2019!
Is this all that shocking? For me, well it’s both a yes and a no.
Yes, because statistics like that means that now, at any given time and place, instead of randomly bumping into three kids with glasses, I’ll be bumping into nine!
No, because having lived with glasses myself since I was nine…
…Did I need to know that too much time indoors would lead to myopia? No.
…Did I need to know that an increase in screen time would be detrimental to my kids’ eyesight? Again no.
So why didn’t I head off this unfortunate turn of events for my sons, especially C?
Allow me some time here to berate myself.
I was too ‘blind’ and distracted by the pandemic and its attendant fallout for me and the rest of the world, in terms of social distancing, isolation, masking, working and learning from home, and overall disruptions to life in general.
I was too tired and stressed from constant news of necessary but constraining enforced lockdowns, imposed periodically throughout my country and elsewhere.
After constant jostling with uncooperative kids to spend some time outdoors and less time staring at enticing screens, I was just too lazy to keep up the good fight.
Yep. There it is. These things really do come in threes!
Taking our eyes off the prize
Sighhhh…and to think my wife and I have always strived to keep a tight rein on our kids’ screen times!
I mean, we don’t give them their own devices. We never let them use any during meal or travel times when out in order to “manage” them, the way we see many parents do when out and about in malls, restaurants, even nature parks and open spaces.
And we always try to enforce the rule at home that daily screen times are kept to under an hour on school days, and two on other days.
We knew the prize of our efforts would be better protection of their eyesight, and their physical health overall.
So how could this still happen?! A near-threefold increase in C’s eyesight deterioration in less than two years!
My mind still reels at this staggering and sobering statistic. It makes me literally want to take my boys out daily now to camp and explore the outdoors.
It’s not all that natural for a bookish homebody like me to be out and about all that often. Being more an introvert who dislikes crowds, (humid) climates, and being in constant motion, I’ve always preferred being alone at home with a good book or TV movie.
Oh dear. So that’s the root of the problem. My inertia to leave the safety and creature comforts of home.
How revolting that sounds now in the light of this irreversible turn of events. My son. 500 degrees. Each eye. And we all know degrees don’t go down; only up or status quo.
But there’s another hurdle.
Looking back over the months of this pandemic, I realise now that C had on numerous occasions “warned”us of this impending “eye of the storm”. When watching screens, he kept stepping forth, leaning closer, pressing forward like he needed to get closer to the action; closer to what’s going on on the screen.
But what did I do?
I just assumed he was being mischievous, being too self-indulgent and absorbed. I thought it was just his “autism enthusiasm” getting the better of him. Even though this has nothing to do with his special needs, except perhaps the fact that he’s less able to articulate to us clearly what’s going on with his eyesight, or recognise himself that it was worsening.
So what did I do?
Yep.I berated him. Chastised him. Even ignored him.
So much for screen time vigilance.
So much for good parenting and caregiving.
Looks like someone’s still got a lot to learn on this raw and unfinished journey of raising kids!
Meanwhile, I think it’s time to head out.
“Kids, let’s go! I mean it. Let’s!!”