the pirate diet

At first there was a mild freak out. Ever so slight, really. The evidence of said freak show appeared in the subject line of my outbound email: I’M A FUCKING STRESS CASE. Normally, I rely on the fcuk party trick, which packs almost the same punch. But this time, there was no easy way to say it. I’d had it up to rear. And so it began…

Little Miss has a wandering eye, and no, I’m not saying she’s an adulterous harlot. When she’s exhausted, or in the throes of a crying fit, sometimes when she’s just waking up from a nap, or when she occasionally zones out and stares into space, her right eye turns out. I’ve been on top of it since she was an infant, taking her to the eye doctor every six months. Each time the doctor couldn’t get her to recreate it—she couldn’t see it, and said most children outgrow it by the time they’re four. This time, I brought photos with me. This time, the doctor was able to recreate it, so this time, at age 3 ½, she’s been placed on The Pirate Diet.

We press a sticky eye patch over her eye for 3 hours each day; one day it’s over the right eye, the other day on her left, then her right again, etc. If this Captain Hooking doesn’t work to strengthen her eye coordination, she’ll need a few surgeries to correct. Yes, a few. They said so. At least, that’s most often the case with this type of thing. Fucking A. I hate this shit.

I get it. It’s really not that big of a deal. My father, Phil’s mother, both spoke with their eye doctors, said it was really nothing, but when it’s your child who needs surgery, it’s always a big deal. Prepping kids, soothing them, explaining, managing your own nerves, fears, and what ifs, and all you can do, at the end of the day, is what we’re doing. Taking it a day, and eye, at a time.

Then there’s the business of Lucas, which I’ll get into tomorrow. No surgery involved, just brushing, physical therapy, and a pillow pool. More then after I make someone walk the plank.



  1. My daughter has a "lazy" eye, meaning her eye did not develop sight correctly from birth. It was discovered at a screening in preschool. She now wears glasses and we patch or "retard" the good eye, so that the "lazy" eye will have to work. You should check with a pediatric ophthalmologist. They will have all the answers you need.

  2. My sweet son had this problem when he was a wee tot – and I feel your pain. We did the pirate thing, and then he got glasses with a special prism that drew his eye into alignment where it then strengthened the eye muscle, negating the need for surgery. He was the cutest little guy in glasses in the whole wide world (started at 18 months).

    Now – at nearly 20, he’s the cutest big guy in glasses…beautiful, strong, handsome, eyes pointing the same direction – you’d never know there was a problem. You may ask about the prism idea in glasses – it’s (to me) more palatable than surgery.

  3. I totally understand the nervousness associated with this whole situation. I’m hoping that I can give you some reassurance. :) I was the little girl with the lazy eye. I don’t remember if we even did that patch thing. I guess we must have tried that, but I don’t really remember it. I had surgery to correct it when I was 7. Kids are resilient; I barely remember it. I’ve had a few surgeries over the years for various problems, all while I was under that age of 18 (and the others were much more serious than the eye surgery). I will always stand by my opinion that those surgeries were all more difficult for my parents than it was for me. Sure, kids will have their compliants and I do remember some of it, but overall, it wasn’t traumatizing for me at all. Meanwhile, I know my parents were worried sick….and I got to sleep through it all.

    I’m now 27 and fine. :)

    I know it’s still scary, so I won’t ever say that you shouldn’t feel how you do, but I hope that some positive stories will help. :)

  4. I have had a lazy eye since I was little – and never even had a patch, surgery or any therapy at all (my father did, though, I believe – it is hereditary). It was officially discovered by the school nurse during the “apple on or off the picnic table” muscle balance eye exam, although I’m sure my parents must have noticed before then.

    It has never caused me any issues at all (although it is a fun party trick – I can make it happen) and the glasses I got in 5th grade for near-sightedness seem to have fully fixed it. So unless I am completely exhausted or drunk, no one even knows I have a lazy eye…

  5. My gorgeous 4 year old got glasses this year. Selfishly, I was devastated. Her beautiful face would no longer be bare but shrouded in the huge purple frames of her choosing. But as I wept quietly at lenscrafters, she smiled and has never said one word about being the only four eyed kid in her class. She taught me a thing or two about vanity, about flexibility and about not sweating the small (easily fixable) stuff.

    1. me too.

      my 3 year old just got glasses for a sudden lazy eye. I wept buckets at seeing his beautiful face covered in glasses (he now looks 13). we’ve already had two surgeries for a (non-related) tear duct that never formed in the same eye.. and I’ll do anything to avoid surgery for my sweet boy again. the wake-up form surgery is brutal.

      my son is great with his glasses, and insists we call him Professor Duck when they’re on. I just hope this corrects that damn lazy eye. And I hope I can get over my stupid vanity.

  6. The same thing happened with my beautiful 6 year old daughter. Adaptive strabysmis (or some such). Her right eye crossed in when tired, etc. and they told me to watch it. At age 6, she got glasses and they told us it would be solved by the time she was 9. As her huge blue eyes were placed behind glasses, I also felt dreadfully sad, but as with your little one, she’s happy as a clam, and likes having glasses because they make her different. The way you out it is so well said, I’ll just echo the thiught. But I would urge another consult with a good pediatric opthamologist to Stephanie to double-check whether surgery is really necessary (although I’m sure she’s already done that and more).

    1. I posted a response to your great comment, Anne, just don’t know if I did it right.

  7. I had a patch for a lazy eye when I was in kindergarten (25 yrs ago) for about 6 months and wore it all day. I will never forget walking in to the first day of kindergarten with a brown patch on my eye decorated with a little bear sticker. I had saved that bear sticker all summer for the first day of school. The whole class was sitting in a circle and we were going around saying our names and when it got to me, of course the question came up, “why do you have a patch on your eye?” I remember specifically saying, “one of my eyes is weak and it has to get stronger.” And that was that- no one said anything again.

    I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I got that fixed at 5 rather than have a wandering eye in junior high when kids become really cruel. Way to be a proactive parent!

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