We'd prepared for our visit to the optometrist in every way I could imagine. I took her to the office the day before the appointment. We met all the staff, apart from the eye doctor himself, who was out of the office. I'd looked for a photo of him on the web site, but there was none. Instead, my social story had to feature a cartoon optician.
We got to the office early. Too early. The toys provided in the waiting area barely captured Pudding's interest for a few minutes. Then she skipped around the room, touching everything. Even when her curious, sensory-seeking fingers weren't trying to touch every single pair of glasses, she constantly ran the risk of falling into the displays. I was already out of patience when the appointment time came and went without our being called.
Finally a very elderly man walked in. Spectrummy Daddy and I managed to contain both kids in a corner. Waiting while our kids caused mayhem would be even more unbearable with a disapproving observer. The receptionist helped him off with his jacket, then replaced it with a white coat. He was the doctor? Oh no. He was old enough to be Pudding's great-grandfather. How was someone so ancient ever going to be able to deal with the boundless energy of my hyperactive child. I cast a horrified glance at my husband as we were summoned.
The calm and patient mother Pudding needs me to be was gone. In her stead was my irritable alter ego. I hissed commands at her. Stop moving. Don't touch. Be quiet. The trinity of things that she can't control. Everything I did made it worse, which made me more angry. All that preparation was for nothing.
We got her into the "princess throne" for long enough for him to determine that she has a slight astigmatism in both eyes. Then she'd had enough of cooperating. Every word I spoke agitated her, but the optometrist remained silent, and calm. Had I really judged this man? Don't I get mad about people doing that to my girl? I'd decided that he would be cranky and intolerant before he even began. But just look: that described me, not him. I added shame to my negative whirl of emotions.
As I stood there wondering what my next move should be, the optometrist moved a spinning light-up toy over and around my body. Pudding was entranced.
He told me to watch her as she tracked the toy with her eyes in a smooth motion, her head perfectly still.
"She's amazing. She has to make so much of an effort to see, but she follows it better than most people that come here. I'd like to work with her, she's really great."
He asked me how I felt about trying vision therapy with her. Honestly, I'd found that afternoon so trying that I was filled with dread at having to return on a regular basis. But that was due to me, Pudding was fine until I'd lost my composure. I'd looked at this man, but I hadn't really seen him. Yet here was my girl at her worst, and he could still see the best of her. We need him on our team.
He tested me too. I'm short-sighted, but getting less so as time goes on. I couldn't agree more with that assessment.