by Risa Green
Over the summer, I wrote about how my son was diagnosed with Amblyopia, commonly known as “lazy eye,” and how the treatment for it involves wearing a hideous patch over one lens of his glasses while playing a special “video game” designed to strengthen his other eye. In that summer posting, when all of this was fresh and new to us, I described how my daughter whined that she wouldn’t be able to play the super-fun-looking video game, since the program kept track of my son’s progress and we didn’t want my daughter’s 20/20 vision to skew the results. My son was triumphant, in that way that younger siblings who are finally allowed to do something the older one isn’t, can only be. Maybe if you get a lazy eye, he told her, then you might get to play, too.
But now, six months into the “patch therapy,” as it’s called, those shiny, happy days are behind us, and the once oh-so-exciting video game has become nothing but a Drag with a capital D. Each day, as the designated video-game time rolls around, my stomach fills with dread as I prepare for my own personal Battle of Little Big Horn (or Battle of Little Big Tantrum, as I like to call it). There’s screaming, yelling, sobbing, pleading and door slamming, all of which usually concludes with bribery involving Lego paraphernalia. But I can’t blame him. With six, five-minute levels of repetitive, mind-numbing “games,” it truly is torture. It’s too bad that Dick Cheney didn’t know about this a few years ago, because if they had forced the prisoners at Gitmo to play this thing day in and day out, that embarrassing waterboarding incident could have been avoided entirely. In fact, my son’s favorite thing to do while “playing” is to tell me about all of the horrible things he would rather be doing. For example, he would rather drink toilet water than play his video game. He would rather go to the doctor and get fifty shots. He also would rather eat chopped liver every day for the rest of his life. His second favorite thing to do while playing, however, is to make up really annoying songs and sing them in a falsetto as loud as he possibly can, just to make sure that we’re all suffering right along with him. Which we are. (And before you judge me and my meanness, you try listening to Happy Happy Happy Rainbow – the only lyrics, by the way – to the tune of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer for thirty minutes every night and see if you don’t want to hang yourself with the printer cable.)
So it was not without a great deal of excitement and trepidation that we went to my son’s eye doctor appointment this morning, to determine his progress so far, and, most importantly, to learn whether or not he needs to continue playing the video game. As he sat in the chair and confidently read the large letters on the eye chart, I became hopeful. Could he possibly have improved his vision? Could we possibly be finished with this God-forsaken video game? But as the letters got smaller and smaller, and as he began to mistake the letter H for the letter V, my hopes began to sank. Dear Lord, I thought. I just don’t know if I can do this for another six months. For one thing, I’m starting to run out of Lego paraphernalia.
When he finished with his eye exam, the doctor confirmed that he had, in fact, improved. His left eye had started out at 20/60 with his glasses, and now he was a solid 20/30. His depth perception was better, too. At his last exam, she explained, he only could see seven out of ten 3D images, but this time he got all ten. That’s all fabulous, I told her, but let’s cut to the chase: do we still have to play the video game or not? My son clapped his hands together under his chin, while I resisted doing the same. Weeeeellllllll, said the doctor. I’d still like him to wear the patch, but if he has an iTouch, he could play on that for forty-five minutes a day instead of playing the video game.
My son glanced at me, eyes wide. I have a very strict, Vacation-Only policy for the iTouch, meaning that my children are only allowed to use it when we travel. For two years, I have never wavered from this rule, despite the most pathetic displays of begging this side of Tijuana. I hesitated as I considered the ramifications of breaking this rule, but then Happy Happy Happy Rainbow popped into my head.
It’s a deal, I told the doctor.
When we got to the car, my (jubilant) son only wanted to know one thing: would his sister be allowed to play on the iTouch, too? Buddy, I said, only if she gets a lazy eye, too.