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Adoption Blog: Our Family Grows With Love

Max’s Patch

At a recent eye doctor appointment for my three-year-old son, Max, we were told we would need to begin patching one eye to try and improve vision in the other one, his "weak eye." When the doctor first mentioned patching his eye, the wheels in my head began turning -- what types of challenges would we face, and how would we tackle them?

I assumed the challenges would manifest in the physical struggles, things like eye strain or Max struggling with depth perception. I was also mentally picturing the battle that would ensue as my husband and myself worked on applying an eye patch to our spirited three-year-old, and getting him to keep it on.

The eye patches you can find in most drugstores look like huge Band-Aids. You peel off the backing and stick it directly to your face. I was relieved to find that we had other options. We were fortunate enough to find Patch Pals, a company that carries eye patches specifically designed for children. The patches have fun, kid-friendly designs on them, and slide right over my son's glasses. We ordered a handful of Patch Pal patches, and I was so relieved to have eliminated at least some of the physical challenges eye patching would present.

But the physical challenges have not been the biggest part of the struggle for us -- it's the emotional reaction my son has had to patching. The first day he would have to wear his patch at school, my tender-hearted little boy cried. Through his sobs, he told me that he didn't want to go to school, because, in his words, "the other kids will look at me because of my eye patch." I agreed with him, that yes, the other kids would look at him when they noticed the patch. But said that, once they got used to seeing him in it, that would stop. He tried every tactic his little mind could work up to get out of wearing the eye patch. He told me it hurt; I re-adjusted it. He told me he couldn't see; I used the best three-year-old terms I could find to explain to him that that was why he needed the patch to begin with. I told him he was a pirate, which was super cool! He told me he wasn't a pirate, but a robot. Progress. And then, through his tears, he told me that he didn't want to be "different." I picked him up, and enveloped him in a huge bear hug, trying to keep him from noticing he wasn't the only one with tears on his face.

After dropping Max off at school, I replayed that morning's scene in my mind. The part that continues to stick out to me was my son's concern over being different. It caused me concern on a larger scale, in that I want my son to be his own person. March to his own beat, so to speak. But, I was also concerned because there are all sorts of things that are going to make my son different from his classmates, from having to wear an eye patch to being adopted. Likewise, his classmates will have things that make them different. I don't want him to feel upset about his differences; I want him to embrace them. I want him to understand that his differences are special, and important, and what make Max, Max.

By the time I picked Max up from school that afternoon, his eye patch had become a celebrity in its own right. The teacher had declared it "Pirate Day" and the other children all wanted an eye patch of their own! At story time, the teacher asked the other children to completely cover one eye so they could experience what it was like to see how Max was seeing. They even spent their lunch break discussing what patch design they wanted Max to wear to school the next day. The Spiderman patch pulled out a narrow victory over the pirate design. And my little boy was all smiles. It didn't matter anymore that he was different. It didn't matter if the other kids looked at him. It didn't matter that he was wearing an eye patch.

That day Max's teacher and classmates reminded me of something that it is sometimes easy to lose sight of. Though it would be much easier to surround Max with people with whom he would have a shared experience, a very important part of the puzzle would be missing. He would lose the value of being surrounded by people who don't have a shared experience, yet embrace him exactly as he is. People who appreciate what makes Max, Max. And, equally as important, Max is learning to do the same, to embrace other people exactly as they are.

Hats off to Max's classmates, and his wonderful teacher!

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Love this story!  Thanks for sharing!!

By Danielle Pennel on Friday, April 19, 2013 at 2:36 pm.

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Maximilian's Mommy

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