Will patching have long term effects on my kids’ confidence?

All the worrying in the world.... It’s all going to be alright!

 

If your child has been prescribed patch wearing for his or her eyes, it was likely not the most welcomed news. Of course, as parents we are grateful there is a non invasive method to help our children and their conditions are correctable. But it isn’t easy to patch... on so many levels. First, you have to start with convincing your child (physically or verbally) to get it on and keep it on. Then you know your poor little child has to navigate the world with only one eye, usually the weak or barely working eye. This brings on all manner of concerns. At least it did for me. I worried that the way she learned to play sports or read would forever be altered or slanted based on that she learned with one eye. On a side note, vision therapy helps to get these patchers to use both eyes together.

No one likes to be judged. I even had one friend, (we are no longer friends) who when I told her about my daughter having to wear a patch, said, “You’re not going to let her where that in public, are you?” My heart sank, I hadn’t even considered that could be a bad idea. All I could think about was trying to save her vision, not the repercussions of the process of doing it. Of course after that “friend” planted that seed, I began to think about all the “what if’s” of our daughter wearing her patch in public.

There is the natural worry about how the world will receive your child as they are out in the world with a patch. Like most parents, I think my daughter is beautiful with or without a patch, but I also know anything on a face that’s different, can be mocked, criticized, or even just a curiosity for others.... and no one wants that for their child. Plus - I love her face, I don’t want it covered by patches and glasses — I want full access to it. I struggled with these (selfish) concerns along with legitimate medical concerns. They weren’t about vanity- but it sounds like that a little when you try to describe it. It was about feeling protective.

When we began patching, we started at home. Soon after, my daughter asked if she could wear it to school. I wanted to be supportive and happy about her initiative. So, of course, I responded that way — but inside I had a small tinge of worry. I didn’t want her to be teased. She was only a few months into kindergarten and just starting to make friends.

The first day she wore it to school I was a nervous wreck, thankfully she wasn’t. I was slated to volunteer later in class that day. I dropped her at school at 8 am and returned to class around ten. When I got there, every single nerve relaxed. I think I even laughed out loud at myself. I looked around the room, and her patch was the least abnormal looking thing on a kid there. Kindergarteners are a funny demographic. Each one more disheveled than the next. One kid had hair so unkept he could be a clown. Little girls have outfits that don’t match in style or color or patterns. One boy was in a superhero costume pajamas. Mismatched shoes were on all of them, if they even had shoes on. Paint and food were on faces, glue was in hair, bandaids on knees, self cut bangs... not a single one of them was looking “normal.”

Years passed, and our daughter was still wearing the patch in second grade. Mean girls emerged, loyal friends defended and prevailed.... The mama bear in me wanted to hate the

mean girls and be that mom who pesters the school to never let my daughter be in class with them again. But rationally, I recognized, those girls were 7 and trying to find their way socially and that patch was an easy target. My daughter is stronger, more resilient, more compassionate from these experiences than those girls are ever going to be. We just have to try to take lessons, and gifts from the hard times.

And we got Maggie. My daughter finally got a best friend — which is really all any 7 year old girl wants. And wow - Maggie could not be a more true blue friend. I would dare say most adults do not get to have a friend like her in their corner. Maggie can be loud, talk a lot, even a bit on the sassy side... but that is exactly what my daughter needed. When she would be shocked or saddened into silence by “impolite” classmates, her loyal compadre was always ready with a quick witted slam to defend our patcher. Plus she’s silly and fun. It’s great these two have learned some really important values of friendship so young. - and in part because of the patch.

All in all — I’ve seen our daughter weather dips in confidence from wearing the patch as well as revel in victories at the eye doctor when her eyes improve. I’ve heard her say she doesn’t want to give up patching because it is part of who she is. This is hard for me to digest- on one hand, I am proud of her owning her issues but concerned about how she identifies herself with it. I have also seen her rip it off, ashamed in new settings. Every one of these touches my heart and leaves me worried about her long term confidence. Each inch of visual improvement pacifies my concerns about her eyes but never ever do they let me stop worrying about what all this patching is doing to her personality, her confidence, her ego, her self esteem, her maturity, and her emotional growth. Because- worry— it’s what parents do.

We were about three years into patching when we met some friends of friends. We walked into our friends house and our daughter was wearing a patch. As we began talking to these new friends they explained how their son, 21 now, used to wear a patch. I have met hundreds of people who share our experience and have a family member who patches or patched. But none struck me the way this couple did. Maybe it was their direct approach in talking about it. Maybe it was their angle of immediately identifying with the parental concerns we share. But I love how they made me feel that everything is going to be alright. ...For the first time in three years.

Any one can tell you, “It’s going to be ok.” And at a deep subconscious level, maybe you believe them. But when you have years of worries about it, its a fictional, lofty, optimist belief — not a real one.

So this couple with the grown son told us their story. It was eerily similar to our own. Totally educated, responsible, involved parents who didn’t find out about the refractive amblyopia until age 5. They laugh now about how the husband’s father was an ophthalmologist, and they still missed it! They told me about how he was patching up to eight years old, just like us. Then they switched to the eye drops.

We know about the Atropine eye drops. We know other families at school who love using them. I have been leery of them and our daughter hates the idea of drops, so we haven’t tried them. While I have worried about what the patching could do for her esteem, my biggest concern has always been to improve her vision. While I recognize the drops are safe, medically approved, FDA tested, etc. The idea of putting something in my daughter’s eye to block her vision temporarily scares me. If something goes wrong there, it seems it could go very wrong. So, my daughter and I let fear lead our decision to not try the drops. Her fear of drops stinging and mine were of a medical mishap.

This couple continued with their story punctuating every chapter with how their son is a completely independent, healthy, confident, thriving adult- and that all the worrying in the world is unnecessary. These patching kids grow up.... and they’re fine.

Ps— I have a couple extremely successful friends who wore patches- so I should know this.

Their son did have the worst case scenario occur with the drops. As I understand it, the atropine impaired his pupil in the one eye that used drops. That is clearly not the medical definition of what happened- but as the story goes, he has life long damage in his pupil in that eye.

And with all that, their point is, he is fine. He has had successful experiences living away from home in college. He has gotten into rock climbing. The patching, the damage from the atropine drops, none of it has gotten in his way. None of it made him an insecure or scared person. As they said, “In the end we have a great, well adjusted 21 year old.”

Maybe it was something about the way they looked right into my eyes. It finally stuck, their reassuring words, “All the worrying in the world, and they turn out alright,”

And its true. As parents there is no end to the things we can worry about, and we do. And mostly, everything turns out fine. But when we send our children out into the world wearing a patch, the worries are right there, visibly in our faces, on their faces, each day. But, “All the worrying in the world, and they turn out alright.”

And I love that they’ve so wholeheartedly helped to instill that in me. Like I said, I had met other families, so I should know, but this instance finally sealed the deal. She’s going to be just fine. Which was why when I had some British doctor reply very negatively to post on an amblyopia support group on facebook, I was fine. This man, publicly told me that if I let my daughter wear a patch - it is child abuse and I’m a terrible mother for letting her suffer through the world while wearing that. All my worst fears would have been confirmed. But, it was now a part of me, “All the worrying in the world, and they turn out alright.”

So each time we have a difficult situation with the patch, or a set back at the eye doctor, I now have my mantra, “All the worrying in the world, and they turn out alright.”

Thank you D&A