The other day came what was probably the first real father-son landmark for me and my boy. Sounds macho, right? Perhaps you’re thinking it was our first football match together or maybe I took him fishing and together we caught ourselves a whopper that we proudly took home to the ladies of the family and cooked for our tea.
You don’t know me that well, do you?
In actual fact my four-year-old son needs glasses, just like his dad. When he first learnt of this likelihood the other week, he was really excited and couldn’t wait to pick himself a pair that looked just like mine. I was more saddened than anything – poor little fella needing to wear specs so young. I was in the juniors when I got mine.
Still I got a grip and began looking forward to our big day out together – to the hospital to confirm that he needed glasses (you put in some special eye drops about half an hour before the appointment and they can literally see what’s going on in your eyes – amazing), then into town to the opticians so he could pick his frames. The speccy father and son alternative to going to the football or out fishing, if you like.
I picked him early from school in what would have been plenty of time, but for the fact we had to go and pick up the dog from the groomers first. Kinda of a long story but my gag of the day to anyone I met was that I had to make sure I didn’t get the two tasks muddled and end up with my boy looking sparkling clean and the dog roaming the village in a pair of bifocals. Some people laughed, some didn’t.
Anyway we got to the hospital, a slightly panicked five minutes late, but I did well to show up at reception with a four-year-old boy rather than a 65 kilo Newfoundland beast. I’d worried I’d not put in the eye drops properly and expected a stern telling off from the rather stern looking eye doctor (no way was I using my dog/boy mix-up gag on her) but all was fine. The drops enabled her to see to the back of the eyes to check nothing more sinister was going on (see, amazing isn’t it) and also to study the workings of the rest of them more closely. Very soon she reached her conclusion. His eyes weren’t working quite as well as they’d expect for one his age, a problem that may well correct itself but for now, he needed glasses.
In a way, it was a relief – I’d have had quite a tantrum on my hands had he been told he was fine and didn’t need any. Last time he’d got all grumpy because he was having to come back for this second appointment.
Next stop then was the opticians in town, the real chance for speccy father and son to bond as he tries on numerous pairs of frames and I help him to reach one of the first big decisions of his little life so far. These glasses are going to change his appearance for, excuse the expression, the foreseeable future. Just what ones would he go for? No doubt a pair like mine but would they be quite right? Sure the choice would be agonising but, you know, I’d be there to help him through it, to offer advice based on my 30-odd years of wearing specs myself.
In the shop the saleslady showed us the ones we could choose from. The freebies – which thank the lord have improved significantly since the thick rimmed devils I had in 80s – and the ones which cost a bit extra. Of course, my boy honed in on the pricier ones, but none of them stood out as being like my glasses so I half expected him to ask to see others. Instead, his hand whipped out and grabbed the pair that was, well, least like them.
He tried them on. They were a sparkly, quite bright, blue number and if I was being honest, a bit gay. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but if he was wearing them for school… that said, they did, I noted, match his uniform.
‘These ones,’ he announced with the utmost certainty.
I tried to look equally enthusiastic but this was the moment I had envisaged my boy looking back at me wearing his first frames, the utmost mini-me of myself. Instead he looked more like Elton John.
‘What about these others,’ I said, pointing to the display rack. ‘Didn’t you say you wanted black ones like Daddy’s?’
‘No,’ he said, firmly, perhaps even about to burst into the first verse of Crocodile Rock. ‘These.’
The saleslady helped me try to coax him into making a different choice, but he was having none of it. I started wondering what his mother was going to say. When our daughter was a baby, she used to mock me for taking her out in the hideous old-fashioned clothes bought by well meaning relatives or, as she always put it, ‘dressed as a transvestite.’ Now I risked bringing our boy home looking like a 70s glam rocker.
The saving grace was his second choice for a spare pair. Black frames – thicker than mine, dare I say almost NHS like – but with little footballs adorning the arms. The closest we would come to the beautiful game, probably ever, on a father-son landmark trip.
Not sure what the saleslady was thinking as she measured him up. Awful choice… should have sent his mother along… I was going to try her on the dog/boy gag but I feared she might have disparagingly thought ‘yeah, I am surprised you didn’t mix them up, fool.’
Once again the boy left grumpily because there was going to be a week’s wait for his glasses. At least I’d be back in London then, time for the wife to get over the initial horror of what she would have to take him into school wearing for at least the next three months.
Final stop of the day was to pick up my daughter from after-school club. Tears promptly ensued as she learnt that her little brother would definitely be getting glasses. She wants some now but her eyes, thankfully, are in perfect health. Mind you if the day comes when she does genuinely need some, I’ll let the wife take her to choose a pair – lest she return looking like Deirdre Barlow.