Monthly Archives: August 2006

Ding ding ding! We have a… something

I must say, I now have a new respect for people who tabulate the votes in countries with single transferable voting systems.  How do they ever keep it all straight?  Of course, they probably have more sophisticated ways of adding the votes up than scribbling a chart on a bit of paper rested on their knees while fending off a toddler who’s trying to grab the pen.

Anyway – a big thank you to all of you who voted, with special mention to my mother for making the 100th comment on this blog, for which she should probably get some sort of prize.  (It’ll probably be my firstborn son.  Temporarily, anyway, while we go out and get a break.)  I should do this more often – it’s fascinating to see what everyone chose.

The current running order is:

A)  How guilt is used as a weapon against formula-feeding mothers
B)  Why I’m not an Attachment Parent
C)  Life with a toddler
D)  Why baby books should be treated with extreme caution
E)  Minutiae of my day-to-day life
F)  The flaws in the supposed anti-controlled-crying evidence on the Bawling Babies website
G)  My sleep training story
H)  How the Good Enough Mummy blog got its name
I)   My weaning story
J)  Why my decision was for Jamie to have the MMR

Voting remains open here and the order will be changed in accordance to any further votes received.  Meanwhile, I’ll amble through those posts in something vaguely resembling that order, with breaks as needed for writing about any current controversies or bits of cuteness on the part of my child that happen in the meantime.  So I should get through that list and be able to post a new one, um, several years from now at the rate I go.

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We interrupt the vote collection to bring you this brief “Gah” on J’s behalf

Looks like J‘s not getting her referral this month.

Apparently the lead-up to the CCAA sending the referrals consists of some sort of complex and varyingly reliable rumour process, which J. described at some length in a post today.  I have to admit I couldn’t follow all the details, but I believe sacrificing a goat and examining the entrails is involved at some point.  So, this month, the rumour process didn’t seem to be working as normal but J. was hanging on it anyway, because, well, that’s what you do when you’re adopting from China.

For those who aren’t au fait with details of Chinese adoption, the crucial date is apparently the LID.  This stands for Logged-In Date, and is the date on which China mark your referral down as officially having been received by them and add you to the World’s Longest Waiting List.  The CCAA (China Centre for Adoption Affairs) then work through the LIDs in order, doing a batch of them every month.  The crucial question is always "Where are they going to get up to this month?"  Not long ago, they were doing about a month’s worth per month, so the backlog was staying relatively constant.  Then, a few months ago, it plummeted to being a couple of weeks or less per month, which means, of course, that the wait has been getting longer and longer.  Last time they referred up to July 13th, which is within 12 days of J’s LID.

This time, they referred nine days worth.  Up to July 22nd.  J’s LID is July 25th.

This is like one of those maths thingies where you get closer and closer to some limit by smaller and smaller increments, but never quite reach it.  J. doesn’t even have the bittersweet consolation of Karen syndrome.  (This is the expression I’ve coined to describe the situation of missing the LID cut-off by a single day, thus ensuring that the teeth-gnashing frustration of being sonearandyetsofar is at least tempered by finally KNOWING for sure that you’re next.)

Of course, even if this isn’t quite Karen syndrome, it’s still only three days.  J’s surely got to be next.  Got to.  Right?  Right.

Meanwhile, this news would be a double helping of Gah with some extra Gah on the side.

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So many posts…

Shannon recently wrote that her personal ratio of posts written mentally to posts actually written down was about 5:1.  I am in awe – how does she keep the ratio that low?

Here, in somewhat random order, is my current list of potential ah-yes-this-would-make-a-good-post topics:

  1. Life with a toddler
  2. The stuff I actually do during an average day (OK, OK, it interests me, anyway)
  3. My weaning story*
  4. My sleep training story (you know, the one where all the hecklers get to throw rotten fruit and cluck about how I Abandoned My Child)
  5. Some philosophical musings on the what-if-J’s-being-matched-Right-Now theme
  6. A critical discussion of the research (and opinions posing as research) on the Bawling Babies blog, and an explanation of the ways in which it singularly fails to prove that sleep training/CIO is a Bad Thing for any baby under any circumstance.
  7. Why I made the decision I did about the MMR (namely, that Jamie had it)
  8. Why I’m not an Attachment Parent
  9. The previously-promised post on how guilt is used as a weapon to attack formula-feeding mothers
  10. The problem with baby books.

Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head, anyway – topics swim up to the surface of my brain, then sink again, dragged under by the swirling currents of my thoughts.  The problem is that, overwhelmed with all those potential posts, I end up not writing any of them.  (There are posts on that list I’ve been planning to write for months, and haven’t got round to yet.)  When I do get a few minutes, I freeze up, unable to decide which of the many potential posts I should actually concentrate on writing.

However, today I came up with the bright idea of letting you, dear readers, take your pick.  Vote for one or more posts from that list that you think sound interesting; or, if you like, request a post on a completely different topic about which you would like me to write.  And, um, I may then actually get around to writing it.  Please do vote for something, anyway – if it now turns out that no-one has any interest in anything about which I might possibly write, then I’m going to be pretty crushed.

*EDITED TO ADD: Beth’s just pointed out that No. 3 is ambiguous, because ‘weaning’ has more than one meaning.  I normally use it in the usual sense of stopping nursing, and that’s what I meant here.  But, technically, it means the process of starting to give babies *any* foods apart from milk.  (I was interested that Beth said that this was the UK meaning – I never realised it was a national thing.)

Anyway, although that’s not originally what I’d meant to write about, there is actually a post in there now that I come to think about it.  So, No. 3 is now subdivided for you to express further preference if you wish:

3a  – My weaning story, as in how I went about stopping nursing.
3b – My giving-solids story, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Ignore The WHO Recommendations.

ALSO EDITED TO ADD, since I’m editing-to-add anyway: I remembered one that I’ve been meaning to do since I started blogging and still haven’t done.  Told you I’d forget some.  11 is How The Good-Enough-Mum Blog Got Its Name.  Feel free to add that one to your voting, if you wish.

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In A Manner Like Iron

Found on Dr Sears’ webpage:

"Some third-party advisor who has no biological connection to
your baby, no knowledge or investment in your baby, and isn’t even there at 3:00
a.m. when your baby cries, has the nerve to pontificate to you how to respond to
your baby’s cries."

Guess what the article that that quote came from consisted of?  Uh-huh.

Guess what Dr Sears writes about again and again?  Uh-huh.

Takes nerve, that pontificating, doesn’t it?

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Why, mercy, I feel a fit of the vapours coming on!

Over at Pomegranate, That Girl has written a post about the difficulties she’s always had with science and her pleasure at finding some bloggers who are hoping to set up a popular science magazine that she thinks she – and hopefully, some day, her daughter-to-be – will be able to get into.  A magazine aimed at making science more accessible to non-scientific types, and even scientophobes – that’s got to be a good thing, right?

Well, the trouble is that this planned magazine isn’t aimed at non-scientific types, as such.  It’s aimed at women.

"We want to launch a new popular science magazine aimed at women. It will cover interesting and timely science stories, with an emphasis on topics that appeal to women, such as medical research and the environment. We hope it will be intelligent, engaging, inviting, stylish and appealing. We’re all qualified and mostly experienced science journalists and we think we’ve got a winning idea."

Why, indeed, yes.  Because women can’t possibly be expected to be interested in science in general terms, and need suitable human interest stories to be hand-picked.  Unlike men, who are obviously going to be into science and so don’t need anyone to smooth their path to it.  And, of course, those stereotypes aren’t quite prevalent enough already.  Thank goodness we have those lovely girls at Inky Circus to reinforce them for us!

Do excuse me – I must just go find a spider to scream at.

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There’s No Place Like Home (But Big Posh Hotels Are Even Better)

Well, we set off an hour and a half later than planned after a packing marathon (you know that scene in Carpe Jugulum where Magrat’s packing stuff for her baby and brings along everything but the ceiling?  Uh-huh.  And we were both hopeless at travelling light even before we acquired an extra person to pack for, so just imagine what we’re like now.)  Then we got caught in driving rain and hideous traffic and took an hour longer than we’d expected on the journey, arriving to find an endless queue at the hotel reception, where the computer system was running slow.  We waited and waited and waited in the queue, while civilisations rose and fell around us, which could have been interesting to watch but unfortunately we were somewhat distracted by trying to entertain an energetic and increasingly fractious toddler who had spent far too long cooped up in his car seat and was now due for a nap. 

Having finally checked in, we spent even longer tracking down the cot that I’d booked for our room, only to discover that it was broken at one corner and looked as though it would crumble as soon as Jamie started his gymnastics.  An enterprising staff member mended it with Sellotape, which is just as well, since it meant that at least it held together nicely when Jamie discovered how to climb out of it within twenty seconds of being put into it.  Oh, and the expensive long-distance baby monitor we’d bought with a view to leaving him alone at night while we wandered off to distant parts of the hotel to enjoy ourselves?  Barely transmitted a signal to the end of the corridor.

And I had a blissfully fantastic time.

The best thing about Discworld Conventions isn’t the specific events, as enjoyable as they are.  It’s the comfortable feeling of slotting back into your place in the world, surrounded by like-minded people – offbeat sense of humour and varyingly insane.  Conventions mean wandering the halls surrounded by people with nametags bearing names like "Lonecat" and "Death’s Secretary" and "Undecided", some of them in amazingly elaborate costumes.  They mean stepping sideways into we-do-things-differently-here land, into a universe where you can cast aside everyday roles and bring new parts of yourself to the fore.  And I relaxed and settled into it and revelled in it, as I always do.

There were so many people there that I hadn’t seen since the last convention.  Emms, purple as ever (her hair dye had worn off when she first arrived, but she rectified that most impressively by the second day).  Peter Ellis and Julie with their baby, about a year younger than ours and gorgeously adorable (I think he’s another James, as well, if I’ve got that right – can’t seem to find anything to confirm or deny this).  Drew, Barry R., Ladylark, Aquarion, Lonecat, Jenny, Gideon, Gid, Suzi – all the well-known familiar faces.

I didn’t do too much in the way of actual scheduled activities.  I did go to the Kaffee Klatch with Diane Duane and her husband on Saturday (Kaffee Klatches are a chance for a small group to sit and chat to their favourite authors about, well, anything and everything that takes their fancy, over a cup of coffee) and put my name down for the one on Sunday as well but didn’t get into that, and went to the party on Saturday night after Jamie finally fell asleep.  I managed fleeting attendance at a couple of Alchemists’ Guild meetings before leaving to chase after Jamie (Barry stayed at both meetings and got involved in all sorts of complicated stuff involving exploding anti-frog potions and a film about The Seamy Side Of Life, jointly produced with the Seamstresses’ Guild).  Most of the rest of the time, I was taking care of Jamie – following him around the hotel as he explored, sharing cheese-and-pickle rolls with him in our bedroom for lunch, sitting in the room while he fell asleep for naps and night-time so that I’d be ready to put him back pronto if he climbed out.  And it was the most relaxing Con I’ve yet been to. 

I never would have expected it to be humanly possible for any activity to be more relaxing with a toddler present than without, but it turns out that this is yet another way in which the rules of normal life are suspended for the duration of the Discworld Convention.  At both of the previous Cons I’ve been to, I ran myself ragged trying to get to every remotely interesting-looking activity on the list.  Yes, it was great fun – when I wasn’t too exhausted to care.  It’s surprising what a relief it can be to stop trying to have fun and just chill out instead.

Jamie, meanwhile, was having the time of his life.  All that corridor space to run around in!  A room with light switches, a television, and a phone all easily within his reach!  (In the unlikely event that anyone who works on room service at the Hinckley Hotel happens to be reading this, I’d just like to say that if you received any mystifying requests for "Unh!  Agliagliagli!" in the past few days, you have my apologies.)  And the lights – ah, the bright lights!  The hotel has undergone complete redecoration since I was last there.  Personally, I rather missed the forty-foot stone statue of Poseidon that used to grace the entrance foyer, but Jamie thought the tasteful light sculpture that replaced it was the best thing ever.  A ledge to climb on with blue lights in!  And a pillar to play peek-a-boo around!  And more lights to look at, up at the top!  And then he discovered the brasserie – which was named "Biers" for the weekend, in accordance with the Convention custom of renaming parts of the hotel after parts of the Discworld, but which probably should have been named "Toddler Heaven".  Coloured lights everywhere, large-screen TVs, chairs to climb on and beer mats to grab – was it humanly possible for life to get any better?

Oh, it was a disappointment to him that the rule about Not Pressing Random Switches still applied even here (and, yes, still applied when he tried again five seconds later, and then five seconds after that…).  But I compromised by letting him play with the switches on any plug-free sockets, while stopping him from pressing any switches that looked as though they might potentially do something.  And, with all that space to run around in and ornamental trees to play with and people in funny hats to stare at, it actually wasn’t that hard to distract him, most of the time.  The ratio of things he could be allowed to do to things he couldn’t just seemed to be a lot higher than normal, and that was a huge stress-reliever for us both.

We bought him his first Pratchett book in honour of the occasion.  He absolutely loves it.  I have no idea how many times we’ve read it over the past few days, but, believe me, it’s a lot.  A LOT.  And Daddy’s dragon imitations make it even better.  He also enjoyed the freebie balloons that came in our Convention packs (including the ones that a few random people gave him because they didn’t want them themselves).  He was a bit mystified by his free bookmark, but decided, after careful examination of the fringe of thin strips at one end, that it must be a new sort of comb.

He was a bit young for the scheduled children’s activities, but I did take him to the Bedtime Story Reading on Saturday, having heard a rumour that it was going to be Terry Pratchett himself reading from "Where’s My Cow?"  It was, in actual fact, Stephen Briggs reading a story the title of which now completely escapes me but which was, unseasonably, about Christmas.  I can’t say Jamie seemed overwhelmed with interest, but I enjoyed it, anyway.  On Sunday, we took him on the "Where’s My Cow?" hunt (a search to find little plastic cows secreted around the hotel and to record their nametags) in which, again, he showed fairly minimal interest – he thought playing with the plastic teaset up in the children’s room was much more fascinating. 

Apart from this, he just ran round and explored the hotel, except when we went out to dinner in the evenings and he ran round and explored the restaurants.  I had visions of childfree people muttering amongst themselves about Those Awful People Who Let Their Toddler Run Wild And Bother Us When We Were Just Trying To Enjoy An Uninterrupted Meal, but not only did he not seem to be bothering anyone, people seemed positively to delight in the sight of his little face peeping around the edges of their chairs and smiling.  While I of course already know that my son is an exceptionally beautiful and adorable child, it’s good to have independent confirmation of this fact from people who are possibly a mite less biased on the subject.

And, talking of restaurants, he got to try jelly for the first time.  That was definitely one of the high spots of the weekend.

The Cons I’ve been to have marked different stages of my life – newly engaged at the 2002 Con, married and pregnant in 2004, mother of a small child this time around.  What stories will I have to tell in another two years, when he’s almost four and old enough to talk about it all, to dress up for the Maskerade, to join in with the activities?   I remember last time, curled up in an armchair in the Hub late at night, relishing the feel of my heavy bulging belly, and wondering, with a quiver of anticipation, what the next Con would be like.  What it would be like doing the Con with a toddler.  What my life would be like then.  I looked forward so much to finding out.  And it was, and is, every bit as good as I hoped.

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Off to see the Wizard

This won’t be posted until we get back, as I don’t like advertising that we’re going to be away – but I’m writing it anyway, just out of sheer excitement.  We’re off to introduce my child to his heritage.

We’re off to the Discworld Convention, 2006.  These are held every two years; so while Jamie was technically present, and indeed rather apparent, at the last one, this will be the first one at which he’s an official member and able to take note of it all.  This will probably be an exhausting experience for his parents as well as him, but it’ll be, um, interesting.

As for me, it’s my third Discworld Convention, and I’m looking forward to catching up with the people I haven’t seen since the last one, showing off my beautiful son, and generally having a great time.

See you later!

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Other new skills of my son…

1. Sheepdogging.  A couple of weeks ago, while my gran was staying and we were looking round some of the local attractions, Jamie decided we were doing too much unauthorised wandering off on our own and started running round behind each of us in turn to push on our legs and guide us back into the same area.  Since then, he’s started using this trick whenever he wants me or Barry to go in a particular direction.

2. The "Look over there – what’s that?" trick.  In Jamie’s case, due to his lack of speech, this consists merely of pointing vigorously with a determined "Unh!  Unh!", but he still thought it held great promise as a method to distract Barry when he wanted to get at the wall sockets during his optometry appointment.

3. The latest, and the one every parent dreads… climbing out of his cot.  This evening, while Barry was sitting on the bed cutting his nails following his shower, he suddenly heard the excited squeal and sproing of a toddler landing on the bed behind him.  The only way I can see that it would be humanly possible for Jamie to do this would be for him to use my nightstand as a foothold to get over the edge of the cot and then as a bridge onto the bed, so I’ve moved the nightstand out of the way and I’m hoping that this does the trick.  If not, we could be in for some really interesting evenings.

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Somebody remind me of this when he’s a teenager

Jamie’s latest skill, acquired as of last week, is blowing raspberries down the phone. 

Even as a besotted parent, I do have to admit that that doesn’t sound terribly exciting.  The point is, he has spent his life to date flat-out refusing to make any sort of sound down the phone.  He is fascinated by phones; he will wrest the phone forcibly from your hand as you attempt to talk on it and stare raptly at it, occasionally pressing important buttons and cutting you off; but through months and months of "C’mon, Jamie, are you going to say hello to Nana, then?" he has remained resolutely mute.

However, last Monday, I rang home at the end of my working day as usual to let my husband know that I was on my way home, and he put me on speakerphone as usual to talk to Jamie, and I burbled excitedly down the phone to him as usual – "Hello, there!  Is that a Jamie on the phone?  Can you hear Mummy, little one?"  And then, not as usual – I heard a tentative little raspberry from the other end, so quiet I couldn’t even be certain it hadn’t been a burst of static until I heard Barry enthusing delightedly over this new milestone.  Since then, he’s repeated this achievement enough times that it clearly isn’t just a one-off.

I feel deeply proud and honoured to be the recipient of my son’s first telephonic communication.  I may not get called Mummy, but at least I now get called Phhhbbbttt.

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The eyes have it

Jamie has a squint.  While the treatment and prognosis of this are interesting to me, and something I want to record to look back on in later years, I do realise that it’s not going to make for thrilling narrative for anyone else.  So by all means talk amongst yourself during this post.

Following various eye checks and monitoring, it was determined that Jamie is long-sighted.  So, a few months ago, he was prescribed glasses in the hope that if he could actually see properly out of both eyes, he’d be more likely to get them working together.  I wistfully anticipated that the glasses would diminish his cuteness, but in fact they’ve added a whole new and hitherto unknown cuteness dimension.  With those and the shorts he’s wearing for summer, he looks like the world’s smallest 50’s schoolboy.  Well, apart from the dummy.

On a more practical level, I wondered how the hell we’d ever get an active toddler to keep his glasses on.  This proved to be far less of a problem than I’d expected, although we found out the hard way that it’s a good idea to take them away from him when he’s hungry or tired.  (Fortunately, the NHS pays for not only the initial pair of glasses but also for repairs – up to a point, anyway, although Barry says the opticians did ask him some very searching questions last time he turned up with a toddler-mangled pair of frames.)  Jamie has, on the whole, cheerfully accepted his glasses and enjoyed the improvement in vision that they provide him.  On the day he first got them, he came to meet me at the top of the stairs when I got home from work and pointed very carefully and deliberately to his glasses, then to mine.  Look, Mummy – Jamie’s got glasses now too!

The glasses improved things somewhat, but he’s still squinting.  So, at the end of June, we moved on to patching – Jamie now has to wear a patch on his good eye for two hours every day, to force him to use the other one.  (For the benefit of anyone who, unlike me, didn’t spend a misbegotten childhood reading obscure child development books, I’d better explain that the idea of this is to preserve the vision in the squinting eye.  Because the brain can’t make sense out of the double message it gets from two eyes pointing in different directions, it learns to ignore one of them.  This then means that the visual pathways don’t develop properly, which means that the child eventually becomes blind in that eye.) 

The plan is that we’ll keep on with the patching until he’s old enough to demonstrate to the optometrist that the vision in his squinting eye is what it should be, which will require him to identify a standard set of line drawings.  Given the rate at which his talking has been progressing, I resigned myself to being stuck with the patches for a heck of a long time.  Fortunately, it seems that it’s permissible for him to identify the drawings by matching them to identical ones rather than by actually having to name them out loud, which is something I do anticipate he’ll be able to do before too many more months.

Jamie, having got used to this new part of his routine, has decided he likes having the patches put on, to the point where he’s got quite proactive about it.  If no eyepatch is forthcoming in the morning – sometimes in the afternoon as well for good measure, regardless of whether he’s had that day’s eyepatch already – he toddles over to the chest of drawers where the boxes of patches are kept, pointing emphatically at the side of his face, gets a box, fishes out a handful of patches, and tears open one of the packets, all ready to have the patch applied.  While this attitude is obviously all to the good, it unfortunately isn’t matched by a similar enthusiasm for keeping the patches on.  On the whole, he’s pretty good about this, but often he’ll rip the patch off before I can stop him.  While I stick another patch on when this happens, there are days when he rips off one after another, every few minutes, until I decide we’ve wasted enough patches and give up for the day. Jamie is less inclined to admit defeat, and has been known to keep going and getting eyepatches and opening them up even when I’ve decided we should leave it for now.  This has led to some of the stranger disciplinary conversations in the history of parenting: "No, Jamie, you can’t have another patch.  You’ve already had five – no, leave them, Jamie.  You can have another one tomorrow – oh, well, all right, just one more.  But it’s the last one, you hear me?"

However, between the three of us, we’re apparently managing to keep his eye patched long enough for it to have the desired effect – his squint is visibly improving, and the optometrist (I think I mean optometrist – I’ve yet to figure out the difference between an optometrist and an orthoptist) was pleased with how things were going when she saw him again on Tuesday.  This was, incidentally, the first time both Barry and I had managed to make it to an appointment – all the previous ones had been held on days other than Tuesdays (my day off each week), until the one before this one, when Barry took advantage of my presence to sleep in.  On that occasion I managed totally to miss the fact that there was a children’s waiting room off the main waiting room, replete with toys, and thus Jamie had to entertain himself by climbing on the (fortunately already broken) coffee machine.  He didn’t mind this in the slightest, but it did mean I was stuck with hovering behind him instead of being able to sit down and relax.  This time, Barry pointed the children’s waiting room out to me and so Jamie was able to occupy himself more conventionally with toys that made noises when he pressed buttons (until he decided that climbing up on the windowsill was more interesting, and I was back to hovering behind him again).

The optometrist called us through, ran through the checks (which consist of flicking between a pair of line drawings in different positions on their cards, which apparently allows her to check how well he can move his eye from one to the other), and told us that he clearly could see all right out of that eye, and that what we had to do now was keep things that way by continuing the patching.  Hopefully this will be sufficient – it’s possible that he may eventually need an operation to straighten his eye, but no decision needs to be made about that until next year at the earliest.  She was at great pains to reassure me that I shouldn’t worry about it, but in fact I was far less worried about the prospect of an operation than she was about the prospect of me being worried – I was more concerned with practical details such as how long he’d have to have a bandage on for post-op if he did have to have surgery.  (No time at all, apparently, which was a relief – I didn’t fancy the idea of fighting a post-op toddler to keep his eye covered.)

He doesn’t currently have binocular vision, and may or may not ever develop it, but this isn’t likely to present him with any problems unless he wants to become an RAF fighter pilot or a professional tennis player.  (Professional football player is, apparently, still open to him as a career – in deference to my mother’s hopes for her first grandson, I asked specifically.)  It certainly doesn’t seem to be giving him any problems at the moment – I wouldn’t have thought a child without depth vision could do the amount of climbing that Jamie does, but it seems people learn to adapt.  The optometrist asked me whether I’d noticed him having trouble stepping up or down a step.  Um, yes – he’s a toddler.  Doesn’t that come with the territory?  (Having said that… yesterday at the park I did notice a couple of points at which it was clear that he didn’t have depth vision and was trying to compensate.  And doing so so well that if I hadn’t already been aware of the issue, I’d never even have noticed.)

So, for the time being, we continue with the patching, keep seeing the optometrist every couple of months, and go back to the ophthalmologist (eye consultant) for a further eye check at some stage in the foreseeable future (appointment to be sent out).  At some point, I may even get round to figuring out just what the hell the difference is between an optometrist and an orthoptist.

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