Yesterday, my daughter came home with glasses. I knew she’d be getting them; we had to set up an appointment in Waldport after the school eye-screening came back with drastically different results from last year. But the news wasn’t so-so bad: Just regular near-sightedness. Eleven to twelve years old is the age when eyesight can often change.

But she came in the door, her cute little round face all different from the wire-frames perched on the bridge of her nose.

“They’re purple.” She announced.

Yes, indeed.

I watch her look at stuff. Look at stuff and see it different. The window, the cat: She lifts the glasses an inch to peer underneath, and then lets them drop again, re-exploring her world.

And then she goes to look in the mirror.

A queer little wind of desolation blows over my heart as her expression changes, and she backs up a bit, tilting her head to stare.

She is seeing. Seeing herself with sharp edges; seeing every angle, every shadow in dolby-digital, after months of fuzzy reception. Less distinct vision isn’t such a bad thing… it gives hard edges a softer feel. Near-sightedness is nature’s airbrush, giving dominant impressions over to color and ‘the-basic-idea’ of a picture, rather than the nitpicky details.

Now she sees. Sees herself, absolutely, according to the man-made laws of 20/20 vision- the ocular golden fleece.

When she turns sideways to give her shape an appraising study, I want to protest. I want to gather her hands between my own, lead her to the couch, and try to explain. This isn’t truth, this vision. She can see her freckles now, and under-eye shadows standing out like 3-D, but it’s only the sharp-focus view, and it seems harsh because it is unexpected. This is merely an exchange really- a new visual language of precision which can be useful for defining what requires definition. But it’s only one way of seeing.

We don’t really see anything accurately, as human beings. The colors we perceive in surrounding objects don’t reflect that object’s true color, but rather the specific wavelength of light that an object reflects rather than absorbs. What we can see is actually the color that an object *isn’t*.  

We know the shape of the world through our senses, and those shapes are dependent upon the tools used to perceive. Perception among people varies as much as one person’s body varies from another. And that only covers the difference in perception among our species. Imagine how differently the world is perceived by creatures who have other primary senses.

For instance, have you ever tried to wrap your mind around the world of a dog? It is the olfactory rather than the ocular which dominates a canine’s perception of the universe. How differently places and people must seem when the primary descriptive is smell. How different the shape and sense of things must be to a nose creature instead of an eye creature.

This would confuse  my daughter.  It would confuse my daughter to be told she’ll never see herself the way anyone else sees her. That the shape of her face will always be colored by an individual’s impression of her overall self. That no two people will see her alike, that for various psychological reasons, some people will be attracted and others repelled by the specific shapes of her features, their combination, their color.

I want to tell her she is more beautiful then she’ll ever know she is. I want to tell her all her friends will also seem harshly defined through these new lenses, and that she hasn’t actually changed since yesterday. I want to tell her she can take the glasses off, because how you see the world might be more important, in the long-run, then how much of it you’re able to see.

See how tangled I get in February?

I open my mouth, to start with, what?  I say, 

“You look really cute in your glasses. Are you hungry?” 


“What do you want to eat?”

And all the subtext swells up and sinks down again. Better that way. Parenting would be one endless labyrinth for her to endure if I actually tried expressing this stuff.

Besides…   It’s going to be awfully cute to watch her discover the visual minutiae of a banana.


Thanks for reading, weebles. Oh, and happy birthday to me.


16 thoughts on “Sight

  1. Having recently (within the last 3 years) experienced the joy of laser eye surgery to go from seeing those fuzzy edges to seeing clearly again without assistance….congrats to your daughter! It’s an awesome thing.

  2. Happy Birthday!

    And a nice essay on the merits of seeing vs not seeing quite so in focus. I rather like the phrasing “nature’s airbrush” — well said.

  3. I love my glasses, resisted my husband’s urging to get lasik as he did. They disguise the wrinkles, you know, not that Sierra has to worry about that. You can be so many things with glasses. She’s going to love them.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my favorite blogger.

  4. Feliz cumpleaños!

    I loved this post. As a mom of three, I know how you feel and what you mean. My number one daughter had to wear glasses before she was one! She wore them til she was about nine years old. She’s now 24 and needs them again. My son had to wear them for about five years, starting in fifth grade.

    My number two daughter is always looking in the mirror and seeing herself as not quite what she wants to look at. Meanwhile, everyone else is looking at her and wishing they looked like her! I know what you mean. I know what you mean.

  5. My daughter doesn’t need glasses yet but she is very critical of herself. She is as hyper as I am and that gets on some of her classmates nerves and like typical 5th graders they call each other names. She takes them to hart. Her Best friend told her she hated her. She took it really hard. Came home crying. Now they are best buds again. You try to comfort them when they will let you. Cheer them up when you can. Get them to laugh when there feeling depressed. But as parents you can only do so much. They are their own person. You can only guide them, because you know they will never let you lead them.

    Hmmm How did you get to be so “old?” well you see there is this concept we like to call time. It’s not a watch or a calender or the rotation of the earth that is just how we measure it. Einstein’s theory of relativity states that time is the 4th dimension and just as important as the first 3. You will also need to note that movement effects the passage of time. It is true, relativisticaly speaking. It’s been proven with two atomic clocks one stationary and one flown once around the world. They were slightly off.

    So are you really old? Has time really flown by. Some people say your only as old as you feel. I say they are full of shit. I’ve been in a few scrapes and my body tells me to stop and to slow down. I feel Old physically but mentally…Mentally I still feel as young as I want. Maybe that’s the idea. Don’t give up the little things that made you happy.
    Play house with your kids.
    Ride bikes through mud puddles and splash each other.
    See scary movies and make out in a car.
    Laugh when someone farts really loud or it lets a SBD go in the store.

  6. I’m reminded of an argument I tried to present to myself that the green leaves on trees aren’t actually green. I even managed to convince myself that they are yellow. Then some people laughed at me and made me a nice cup of tea.

    Happy Birthday. What colour is February?

  7. Love your perspective, even-handed and calm in the face of what could have been traumatizing for your daughter, I suspect February may not be quite as dark as we’re led to believe.

    Happy Birthday, Amurin… many, many, many more.

  8. Happy (belated) Birthday.

    how you see the world might be more important, in the long-run, than how much of it you’re able to see.

    It’s definitely more important. What a lovely post.

  9. Happy Birthday! I know I’m late. It seems I’m always late with these things. Just use it as an excuse to celebrate again. :)

    I enjoyed this post, very much. I’ve been wearing glasses since the 4th grade (well, I didn’t wear them so much then as lose them all the time). I like how you described near-sightedness as nature’s airbrush. The world is so much softer without my glasses. Even my impressions of myself are softer (and who is harder on me than me with glasses?).

    It seems to me, from reading your blog, that you are a really good mom. Pretty cool, too.

  10. 1. Happy Birthday.

    2. I wish she could look at herself now and see how beautiful she is. Looking back when she’s 40, with wrinkles and sags and the beginnings of age spots, she’ll see it and realize that she’s missed something. My daughter turns 13 in a few weeks, and I wonder what beauties she is missing right now? I try to talk about it without pontificating, by saying things like, “Wow, you sure have gorgeous eyelashes. You’ll never need mascara.” “I would have died for your hair at your age”. I don’t know if it helps. I want to help. She seems OK thus far, but I wonder if I did, too?

    My daughter goes for her eye exam tomorrow. I’m wondering about contacts. She only wears her glasses when she *really* wants to see, and I get tired of seeing her squint all of the time.

  11. What a beautiful story, and beautifully written. I got glasses in the second grade, and contacts in 7th, and I hated every moment of wearing glasses. I thought I was ugly. Now I have a 2-year-old daughter wearing glasses (she has Down’s) and she is beautiful with them and even more beautiful without.

    I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog. Beautiful, profound essay.

    Kate (

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