When my younger son, Will, was in 1st grade, his teacher stopped by my 5th grade classroom one day after school.
"Will's been complaining about his vision," she said. "He asked if he could sit closer to the board."
"Really?" I asked, dumbfounded. "The pediatrician checked his vision at his annual check-up; and he was able to read the eye chart perfectly."
"Hmmm...I just don't know what to think," his teacher said. "Something seems a little off about it; but I thought I'd tell you. What do you want me to do?"
"Keep his seat near the front of the room for now; and I'll talk to the school nurse on Monday. I think she has an eye chart in her office."
That evening, I asked my husband if he had noticed Will squinting at the television set. He hadn't. I told my husband what Will's teacher had said. We asked Will.
"Why did you ask Mrs. Warner to move you to the front of the room?" my husband asked.
"I can't see the words on the board," he said. "I need glasses."
"Do you have trouble seeing anything else?" I asked, "Like the words in the book you're reading or the TV set?"
"Yes," he said. "I need glasses."
On Monday, I shared our concerns with the school nurse.
"I'll be shocked if he needs glasses," I said. "The doctor just checked his eyes at the beginning of the school year; but I have had glasses since third grade...so maybe I missed something. I'll feel terrible if he needs glasses and I had no idea."
The nurse said not to worry, that she would call Will down to her office and see if he was able to read the eye chart.
"Can he read well enough to identify all the letters?" she asked.
"Oh yes," I said. "That shouldn't be a problem at all."
That afternoon, she reported to my husband (who was the assistant principal at our school), that Will had failed his vision test.
"She said he failed it 'extravagantly.' He missed every single letter," my husband said. "Then, the nurse said she pulled out the eye chart with pictures on it; and he failed that, too. He couldn't recognize one single picture. She said she had never had someone fail it so completely. She said it was almost like he was faking it..."
Faking it!?! I did not think my baby boy would fake nearsightedness...would he? In the back of my mind, I was aware that he and his brother had been watching Superman recently. Superman was Will's hero. Clark Kent wore glasses. Would Will fake nearsightedness in order to look more like Clark Kent? This was the child who had asked for super powers the previous Christmas.
The next day, I called my eye doctor and set up an appointment for Will.
I was so worried.
On the day of his appointment, I explained to the optometrist my concerns about Will's eyes; and I told her about his fascination with Superman.
"I know just what to do," she assured me.
She helped Will hop up onto the examination chair; and then she projected the vision chart on the opposite wall.
I watched as Will called an E an F, a B a P, a V a W, an M an N... He would pause and quirk his mouth to the side a little and tilt his head. Was he struggling to see? He never squinted. Then it dawned on me...Will was not pausing to try to see the letter, he was pausing to think of a letter that looked similar to the letter he was seeing!
"Hmmm..." the optometrist said. "Let me try something."
She stepped out of the room and returned with a pair of child-sized glasses. She slipped them onto Will's face. His eyes lit up.
"Can you read the eye chart now, Will?" she asked.
"Yes I can!" he said, enthusiastically, and he proceeded to read every letter perfectly.
"Well, Will," the doctor said, "you may need glasses one day; but you don't need them right now."
She patiently removed the glasses with the prescriptionless lenses from Will's eyes.
I was mortified.
"Thanks for your help," I said. "I'm so sorry we wasted your time."
"No problem," she smiled sympathetically and insisted that I not even stop at the receptionist's desk. She was not going to charge me for the eye exam.
Will and I headed to the car. He stopped and crossed his arms over his chest. He was confused.
"I saw better with the glasses on," he said, adamently. "I'm not leaving until I get some glasses like Clark Kent." There it was.
"You are most definitely leaving...without the glasses," I said.
"I am very upset with you," I told him, once he was buckled into his car seat. "You told a lie to Mrs. Warner, and to me, and to Daddy, and to the school nurse, and now to the eye doctor. You lied about your eyesight!"
I could see him in the rearview mirror. He looked very sad. I hoped it was because he realized how dishonest he had been; but I was pretty it was because he was so disappointed about leaving without his glasses. He was still trying to figure out how the doctor had outsmarted him. I felt a twinge of sorrow for him. He had not gotten super powers from Santa; and now all his careful plans for Clark Kent glasses had been foiled.
It wasn't until years later, Halloween of his 8th grade year, that Will, still with 20/20 vision had a chance to be Clark Kent. He looked just like him.