Friday, August 3, 2018
This summer, my boys decided they needed reading glasses. They had seen their aunt wearing a pair, and were fascinated by the fact that such a disability could be diagnosed and treated at the dollar store. After begging for weeks through eyes squinting so dramatically Helen Keller would be embarrassed, I relented, and we headed to Dollar Tree in search of the cure they claimed to desperately need.
If you've never seen the display of reading glasses at Dollar Tree, I recommend at least three years of optometry school before attempting to navigate it. In addition to a variety of styles, there are strength options that range from +1 to +4 in .25 increments, and something called a diopter test chart, which allows you to try the strength of the lens before, heaven forbid, you blow an entire $1 on the wrong pair.
After painstaking deliberation, Cal chose black frames with a +1 magnification, Eddie blue 2.25, and the two of them emerged proudly, looking like a cross between hipsters and elderly women.
Eager to put this miracle cure to the test, we drove straight to the library. While Cal went in search of the smallest typeface ever printed, I followed Eddie and his blue frames to juvenile fiction, where I watched him flip through a couple of books briefly, put them back on the shelf, and burst into tears.
"What's wrong?" I asked, thinking "Besides the fact that you look ridiculous in those things."
"They don't work," he said tossing them on the ground, his confidence gone.
"Let me see." I retrieved, cleaned, and tried them myself. "They seem to be working fine buddy," I told him.
"But I still can't read."
It took me a minute to realize the cause of his disillusionment. Wavering between amusement and pity, it occurred to me that he thought that when you put on Dollar Tree reading glasses, you would SUDDENLY KNOW HOW TO READ.
I scooped him up, carried him to the car, and made the mistake of explaining what had happened to his brother, who laughed the entire way home.
While Eddie pouted and Cal tried to suppress his hysterics, I thought. There's a lesson here, isn't there? There's always a lesson.
Is it any surprise that he thought such a quick fix was possible? I am raising my children in a world of instant gratification.
Do you want to have more energy? Take this pill! Need more money? Swipe a credit card! Lose weight? Surgery! Longer hair? Extensions! Dinner? Drive-through! ITS BEEN 36 HOURS, WHERE IS MY AMAZON PRIME PACKAGE?
Want to learn how to read? All you need are glasses from Dollar Tree.
To be clear, I have nothing against drive-throughs, or hair extensions or credit cards, and if you have pills that will legally give me more energy please slip them under my door. But I'm afraid that the cumulative effect of instant meals, instant cures, instant cash, and instant success is a growing impatience that doesn't serve us well.
Here, instead, is what I hope my children will grow to understand.
Learning to read takes time.
Saving money takes time.
Healthy bodies take time.
Making friends takes time.
Forgiveness takes time.
Good marriages take time.
Everything about children takes time.
Grief takes time.
Dreams take time.
Eddie and I have since been spent hours improving his reading, and celebrating the little milestones and achievements along the way. I once heard it said that what comes easy won't last, and what lasts won't come easy, and I think he understands that now.
Or he will, eventually.
I remember distinctly the day my mom turned forty. I was eight at the time, and had always perceived her as younger than my friends...