Outside time not only feels good- it can help stave off nearsightedness

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My son has been ‘on the edge’ of needing glasses since he started Kindergarten almost two years ago. Since my daughter had been diagnosed with a vision issue back when she started Kindergarten, we took her to UAB Callahan Eye Center to get a second opinion when she was only five. (a mom at my kids’ preschool suggested Callahan). Thank goodness we made that drive! The local optometrist I had taken my daughter to had incorrectly diagnosed a slow-focus astigmatism as something much more serious.

I was so impressed with how Dr. Arcinegas addressed the issue with my daughter, that I asked her if she would check out my son when he got old enough to attend school. (I didn’t want to have another mis-diagnosis like before.) I am writing all this because the she has encouraged us to keep my son out of glasses as long as possible. When I asked her if there was anything we could do to help my son stay out of glasses, she said the only thing to do would be to make sure my son gets plenty of time outside.

I was surprised! When I asked for more information, Dr. Arcinegas told me that one of the main things that had been shown to be effective in kids with mild Myopia (nearsightedness) was outside time. As it turns out, there is plenty of research to support this. For example, they have done studies in other countries, tracking the effects of outside time on groups of children at different schools. An article by the American Academy of Opthalmology has some striking information. It kinda makes me wish the kids got longer recesses at school, especially since there is plenty of evidence that recess has important benefits. Now that Daylight Savings Time is in full swing, it seems like they have hardly any time after school to get outside and play before dark.

This past weekend, I feel like I must have been asked at least three times a day: “Mom, can we watch TV?” And 90% of the time my answer is , “No, it’s light outside, go outside and play while you can.” I feel like that is my refrain all Fall until the weather just turns too cold or windy for getting outside to be any fun. And for once, this weekend, the kids seemed to acquiesce a bit faster. I’d get a sigh, or a moan, and then off to the laundry room they would go to put on their shoes and go make some mischief outside.

When I got a little bit of energy late Sunday afternoon, I offered to go shoot baskets with my 6 year old son. I thought to myself, “I should go shoot hoops with him while I can….it won’t be long before he’ll be too tall/fast/big to play basket ball with his mom.”  We were outside for almost an hour dribbling, trying to make baskets, and passing the ball back and forth. Over dinner I mentioned that I had a good time with him, and said something to my husband about enjoying it ‘while I could, since he’ll be too big to play with his mom before long.” My son touched my arm to get my attention and said, “No mom, I’ll never be too big to play basketball with you.”

(Big sigh) I sat there thinking, I wish that were true.

Instead of saying what I thought, I just smiled with a twinkle in my eye and said, “Thanks honey, that is so sweet!” And on the inside I savored that priceless mommy moment.

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)


I saw a parent sleeping in the carline at school pick-up…


I cut around another mom today in car line. I had showed up with 15 minutes to wait on a rainy afternoon and was sitting there watching all the other cars pull in front of she and I. We were on one side of a “Y” merge and the cars that passed were on the other side. I sat there staring at the 3 car gap between us and the next car and waited. And waited. And Waited. The other cars had all moved up when school let out and the minivan in front of me did nothing.

No brake lights flashed, no inching forward, no movement at all in front of me. I slowly turned my wheel to back up and get out of line. Nothing. I pulled up next to the woman, thinking that maybe she was waiting for someone to exit the church rather than waiting in car line. She was half-turned the other way, so I drove past her and pulled in front of her. I noticed the car behind me following my lead. When I checked my rear-view I noticed her sort of looking at us passing by with a dazed expression on her face and leaning against the side window.

I think the woman had fallen asleep! I almost felt bad. I had cut in front of a person in car line that appeared to have been so tired she was catching a quick nap while waiting to pick up her kids. Then I thought about how tired she must be. I reminded me of all the times I have been so tired (or sleepy) driving the kids to school that when I get home I say a silent prayer that we all got where we needed to be safely. My anger had evaporated—after all, there but for the grace of God go I. I just pray she got home OK with her kids. I also got grateful that I was not that tired today.

Back when I lived in DC, a few people were making jokes about micro-sleeping in their cars during their commute. It turns out the sleepy-driving is as bad as drunk driving. And there are lots of other less than ideal side effects. Lack of good quality sleep can cause weight gain and decreased cognitive functioning. So if any of you folks out there needed some scientific justification for taking a power nap on or after your lunch…you now have it.  Sweet dreams people!