I think I am thankful that my kids only have to get eyeglasses once a year. Last year, I purchased two pairs for one of my daughters and one pair for my son at Walmart. I have taken them to the eye doctor at the local Walmart for five years. It's covered by our insurance and he's very knowledgeable. So, the eye exam part of it is very simple. Picking out eyeglasses, though, can be much more frustrating.
Last year, I looked at Walmart and Costco for glasses for my children. I started at Walmart and looked around. Then, I headed down to Costco with three children in tow. The lady at the counter was so unhelpful and I was frazzled, so I quickly left. I headed back to Walmart and picked out glasses--two pairs for my middle daughter and 1 pair for my son. Walmart doesn't carry many really small glasses. So, I only got one pair and resolved to find another pair somewhere else.
I bought a second pair from JCPenny Optical and that was a horrible experience. The price was as low as it could be--$25. But, even the smallest pair was bigger than the pair I'd found for him at Walmart. Still, the reason it was a horrible experience was because we didn't get any help. They also put the glasses in a soft case (so you'd have to spend extra money on a hard case anyways). I didn't mind when Eli ended up losing the glasses from Penney's withing a month. But, that did mean that I needed another spare pair for Eli, so I headed to a Walmart that was closer to where I lived.
I ended up with a more expensive frame and the price climbed for his glasses from $39 to $78. Surprisingly, it was the $78 glasses that came apart four times this year. But, because it was a screw, I simply had to go back in over and over to get it fixed. Time. The store workers gave my son as the cause for the problem, though, the screws in his other glasses never came out.
At the end of it all, I did not look forward to trying to find new glasses again this year. I knew I needed to do it differently.
We started with the exams. I have found that my children's eyesight has changed every year. I start getting their eyes checked at 4 years old. Children's eyesight does continue to develop until they are 8 years old, so optometrists expect changes during this time and won't (shouldn't) automatically prescribe glasses even if a child doesn't have 20/20 vision. This year, I found that my oldest daughter needed glasses to wear all the time. She's the same age that I was when I started wearing glasses all day, every day. Additionally, my middle daughter's eyes changed and she needed new glasses, but my son's stayed the same. So, we needed to make the rounds and find new eyeglasses...
We started with Walmart. But, the girls didn't find ones they liked. Both my husband I remembered times when we were kids when we felt very self-conscious about our glasses. We want them to have glasses that are flattering and that they like. After we left Walmart, I realized that I needed to talk with my daughters before we looked any farther. What I said to my oldest daughter was that I wanted to find glasses that both she liked and I liked. I wanted glasses for her that would flatter her face. When I was a kid, knowing what looked nice on me didn't naturally occur to me. And my daughters are the same way. I try to give them broad guidelines and then freedom within those guidelines.
After Walmart, we checked out America's Best Value, since a friend had recommended it to me last year. I discovered that they have a good selection of really small frames for children under 5 who need glasses at really cheap prices. But, when we walked into the store near us, three employees were sitting gabbing away and they never offered to help us. Whether I am willing to purchase glasses from a store is now dependent on whether someone is willing to help us (after our experience with Penney's last year). There also weren't many frames in my ten year old's size which is what we were primarily looking for. So, we moved on.
For Autumn, we ended up at a small optical boutique near our home, Holloway, that had some girl frames that weren't too young, nor too tweenish. They were more expensive, but my oldest daughter loves them. We did spend the money to get her good lenses that don't distort your eyes when someone looks at you. There isn't a reflection or a rainbow effect.
One pair down, two to go (one pair of sunglasses for my oldest daughter and one pair of distance glasses for my middle daughter).
Next, we tried our local mall and Visionworks. Their glasses are ready in a few hours (or up to a day later in the case of polarized sunglasses). The saleslady was helpful and patient with us, but didn't know a lot about what constituted a proper fit of glasses on a child. I realized that for my own sanity, I needed to help one daughter at a time, so I started with Sami. We found her a cute pair of glasses and that was done. Then, I turned my attention to Autumn's sunglasses. That was tough. After a long search, we settled on some plastic purple frames. Looking for glasses may take a short time if you're lucky, but I'm realizing that I need to always make sure to allow for time when shopping for glasses with my children so that I don't get stressed and impatient with my children. I tend to squeeze things into my schedule and when it comes to glasses... it's wise for my kids and me if I allow more time for such shopping trips!
(On a side note, Visionworks does carry the flexon frames for boys with bendy arms. So, if you're looking for them, you can find them there. They don't make them in girl colors, though.)
Buying glasses for kids just isn't easy. I find that as a parent, I'm constantly figuring out how to make things manageable for myself. I managed things better this year than last. I am hoping that next year will be easier than this one!