petite anglaise

November 9, 2005


Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:40 pm

I had been dreading Tadpole’s appointment with the optician ever since the day I scheduled it, back in September.

Psychologically scarred by our previous visit, during which I suggested to the optician that perhaps a kiddy straitjacket might be a worthwhile investment, I couldn’t help fearing the worst.

Has anyone out there ever tried administering eye drops to an energetic twelve month old? It wasn’t the first set of drops which posed a problem, although they did provoke an ear splitting squeal which was probably heard by every resident of the 20th arrondissement.

But the fun really started when I went back for a second attempt. And a third. And fourth. At the merest glimpse of the eyedropper, Tadpole screamed and clamped her eyes tightly shut. With one hand holding the pipette, the other attempting to pin her wildly gesticulating arms to her chest, a third hand was required to perform the prising open of Tadpole’s eyelids. But, being anatomically quite unadventurous, I sadly do not possess a third hand. In despearation, I called for backup, and left a frantic, expletive-riddled message on Mr Frog’s mobile phone messagerie. To no avail. Reinforcements were not forthcoming.

Forty minutes of toddler-wrestling later, one of Tadpole’s pupils was greatly enlarged (her eye not dissimilar to my own in a favourite photo entitled “petite outside the dance tent, Glastonbury Festival, 1995” in which my irises do not appear to exist), whilst the other remained a stubborn little dot. Eyedrops, mingled with tears, ran into Tadpole’s ears and hair, and dribbled down her clothes. Her protesting face was the colour of a beetroot. At my wits’ end, I vowed never again to brave the optician’s alone.

Which brings us to Saturday morning, 8.50am. Petite and Tadpole alight from a number 26 bus at the junction of rue des Pyrénées and rue de Bagnolet, armed with an impressive artillery of bribes (madeleines with chocolate chips, colouring book and felt tip pens, favourite dolly). We scurry past the Flèche d’Or, which I glance at wistfully (petite’s social life – R.I.P.), and arrive at the cobbled rue St Blaise, home of the children’s ophtalmologue.

Tadpole fiddles dubiously with the various grubby looking, paleolithic toys which populate the waiting area; I wrestle with my own sense of foreboding. A door opens, and the ophtalmo appears.

“Tadpole Anglaise?”

“Oui, c’est ma fille.”

“Et quel âge a-t-elle?”

I hastily count on my fingers. “Er, … 29 months.”

“Right, come on in!”

My jaw drops. “We don’t have to do the eye drops first?”

“No, she’s old enough to do an eye test this time…”

Brimming over with gratitude, I resist an overwhelming urge to throw my arms around the optician lady.

Ten minutes later, we are free to go, as Tadpole has successfully “read” the test chart on the wall, with only two minor hesitations, and one rather perplexing moment where the optician points at a picture of a flower, and Tadpole cries:


In the bus on the way home, I discreetly finger the untouched chocolate chip madeleines in my bag, with a smile of anticipation.


  1. Isn’t it nice when everyone’s a winner? :-)
    Enjoy the cakes…

    Comment by Knecht — November 9, 2005 @ 5:12 pm

  2. “paleolithic” – Good word. I’ll need to google that to know what it means but it sounds good.

    Comment by P in France — November 9, 2005 @ 5:25 pm

  3. I didn’t even know you could test toddler’s eyes. I wish mine had been, then maybe I wouldn’t have spent the first six years of my life falling over.

    Comment by Homer — November 9, 2005 @ 5:43 pm

  4. Ah, but what kind of flower? (sorry, “hélicoptère!”)

    Comment by joeinvegas — November 9, 2005 @ 5:46 pm

  5. Is that some French thing, to check toddler’s eyes? I don’t recall that being on the “American Well Baby Check list.” Both my kids had their first eye exam at about age three.

    Comment by Small Town Diva — November 9, 2005 @ 5:49 pm

  6. I still hate eye drops, and I’m 31!! I’ll do just about anything (like trying to find glasses on my own at the pharmacy!) to avoid them.

    Comment by Kath — November 9, 2005 @ 5:53 pm

  7. ‘Tadpole Anglaise’? Presumably, your blogg transciption of what the opthalmo called out? I assume your delightful child is ‘Tadpole’ to us but not to her friends & relatives! Mind it would be quite funny if Mr Frog so signed himself in on each day of his travails!

    Comment by fella — November 9, 2005 @ 5:56 pm

  8. The only reason we have had her eyes tested so early is because I needed glasses from age 4. But Mr Frog had 20/20 vision. Toddlers don’t wear glasses if slightly short sighted – which Tadpole is, sadly – unless one eye is significantly worse than the other. Which luckily, is not the case.

    Comment by petite — November 9, 2005 @ 6:01 pm

  9. I have to admit that it took me a couple of seconds too to get the “Tadpole Anglaise” thing. For a second, I thought: “Wow, that’s is one seriously well-informed ophtalmo!” :-)

    It’s been a long day…

    Comment by Iain — November 9, 2005 @ 6:42 pm

  10. I’ve had glasses since I was 16 months old – the NHS were on the ball for once with me. However, my mum frequently reminds people that she had to tie them on to me otherwise I’d bury them anywhere I could… in the sand, in the flower bed, in a river..

    Comment by m — November 9, 2005 @ 7:37 pm

  11. I hope you ate ALL the madeleines yourself….

    Comment by birdy — November 9, 2005 @ 8:27 pm

  12. I had to bring my Little One to ENT doctor (Ear, Nose & Throat) because of these strange skin tags just in front of her ears. (Sounds strange but we grew to love them and do miss them now that they are gone!) They told us that there was a correlation between these skin tags and deafness so starting at 12 months she had to get hearing tests. It’s hard to watch your child dealing with things they can’t understand yet.

    She’s ok, but what I’ve learned is that it’s not the end of the world if she was deaf. I think we expected it for a while, and now it’s a gift that she’s not.

    Comment by Kathy — November 9, 2005 @ 8:42 pm

  13. Well done kiddo toddler! Just love your blog, very entertaining reading! Reminds me a little of the book Almost French by a Sydneysider in Paris.

    Comment by Saskia — November 9, 2005 @ 8:47 pm

  14. Hee hee, sounds like you had an ecstatic time at Glastonbury, huh?
    Do you (even have time to) follow the music scene in France these days? If so, any good French artists around? I can still recall “Desenchantee” by Mylene Farmer, and “A nos actes manques” and “Tu manques” by Frederick-Goldman-Jones, while I lived there in 1991. Ah, memories! (Hardly “cutting edge” stuff, I know, but I didn’t have time to search for the French equivalent of Joy Division).

    Comment by Tom — November 10, 2005 @ 4:45 am

  15. Tom – If there is a French version of Joy Division, I don’t know who they are… I’m afraid I don’t follow much apart from MTV2 UK these days, through lack of time, mostly. The only French thing I currently listen to is ‘Nouvelle Vague’ – which is a collection of songs in English sung by French singers, in a bossa nova style, including ‘Love will tear us apart’. Well worth checking out. As a (male) friend of mine said, there is something irresistibly sexy about hearing a French girl with a heavy accent singing the words “too drunk to fuck”.

    Comment by petite — November 10, 2005 @ 10:15 am

  16. Chère Petite, Please don’t post: The only way I found of putting eyedrops in my toddler son was to kneel either side of his torso, thus disabling arms and movement, use my left arm to immobilise head and hold eye open, leaving right hand free to administer drops. Completely barbaric – I cry nearly as much as he does. If you’ve found a better method please let me know as he’s due more drops next month – age 8. Only discovered your blog last week when we FINALLY got braodband – love it.

    Comment by Janet — November 10, 2005 @ 11:14 am

  17. If you like Nouvelle Vague, you should try Pink Martini.

    Comment by céline — November 10, 2005 @ 2:53 pm

  18. I know the ophthalmo you went to. I know those grubby broken toys.
    It’s not easy getting eyedrops into toddlers and babies. I must say though, that Dr St Blaise is a darn sight better at it than at the ophthalmo department at Hôpital Trousseau. I had a nightmare experience there with my then 12 month old, where the overworked, overbooked doctor had no “bedside manner” whatsoever and the eyetest was finally aborted due to my daughter’s ability to clamp her eyelids together completely, using muscle power alone.
    Dr St Blaise charmed/hypnotised my daughter with a shortbread biscuit and a wobbly bird pencil top and it was smiles all round.

    Comment by Mancunian lass — November 10, 2005 @ 4:12 pm

  19. PS Can you adjust the clock on your comments box please, as I just nearly had a heart attack as I thought I was late for school coming-out time…

    Comment by Mancunian lass — November 10, 2005 @ 4:16 pm

  20. You are right, she is lovely, and I was very jealous when Tadpole got a biscuit, and I did not.

    Comment by petite — November 10, 2005 @ 4:33 pm

  21. No need to be jealous. You had a whole bag of chocolate that Tadpole knew nothing about! (Is that selfish? Nah. I didn’t think so.)

    Comment by Heather — November 10, 2005 @ 4:51 pm

  22. This works for giving drops to my 4yo:

    She lies on her back, eyes closed. (It doesn’t matter whether they are screwed up or lightly closed.)

    I put a chocolate on the tip of her nose, balancing it carefully.

    I put drops in the inside corners of each eye. Her eyes are still closed. She isn’t moving. (I make a point of checking the temperature of the drops. Even if they don’t have to be refrigerated, for some reason eyedrops feel cold. I try to bring them to body temperature. Usually tucking the bottle in my bra for a few minutes does it.)

    I count to three. She opens her eyes. The drops go gently into her eyes. I count to ten. This gives the drops time to settle. She then gets to eat the chocolate.

    If (and this is important) she jerks around, or doesn’t open her eyes, or otherwise causes the chocolate to fall, I eat it.

    I taught her to do this when there was no need for it, because I didn’t want the situation you describe. Because it wasn’t really crucial, it was fun.

    It’s best to train this in steps – first just the balance the chocolate for a count of three, then closing her eyes and balancing, then closing her eyes and putting saline drops in, etc. It’s also key to eat the chocolates quickly, if it falls or if she doesn’t open her eyes on cue, so that she has an incentive to do exactly what you want her to do.

    This is also fun for both parties, and worth doing a refresher once a month or so.

    (I can’t decide if this post makes me sound like a cool, fun mother or a total psycho control freak. I hope the former.)

    Comment by I'uli — November 14, 2005 @ 5:40 am

  23. Next week: how to teach your child to ride a unicycle while spinning dinner plates on her head and forefingers…

    Then you could hire her out for parties, weddings etc. and not have to worry about how poorly paid translating is.

    Comment by Mancunian Lass — November 14, 2005 @ 10:04 pm

  24. Well, someone did ask if there was a better way.

    And I’m not a translator.

    Comment by I'uli — November 14, 2005 @ 10:48 pm

  25. Doing this with a toddler (choccy bikkies) sounds like fun? I had to do this for my late father whenever I went home. He was 76 and whenever I used the dropper, even if he/I held his eyelids open, at the moment of the drop falling his eyelid would close like a reflex action. I swear that more went down his cheek than ever in his eyes – good job he didn’t have to pay for his prescriptions and so had bottles and bottles of eye drops.

    Love the site. See you have link to Tokyo Girl whose site is also fun. Another one you may want to check out is “dooce” ( – an American mother and blogger who has her own trials and tribulations with her 21 month old daughter, Leeta. May give you some relief from your wrestles with Tadpole Anglaise.

    Comment by Philip — November 15, 2005 @ 8:26 am

  26. Sorry I’uli, I just couldn’t resist being flippant. (Actually I’m secretly impressed by your technique).

    Comment by Mancunian lass — November 15, 2005 @ 11:11 am

  27. me too, especially the bit involving the bra…

    Comment by petite — November 15, 2005 @ 12:01 pm

  28. Mancunian lass – I wasn’t offended, thanks. My family goes nuts when I talk about my wonderful, lively child in terms of training behavior. They think it sounds calculating and unloving. But it is how I think about teaching her to do things. So I am aware that my vocabulary sometimes strikes people wrongly.

    Philip – That’s actually how I learned to give the drops, only it was on myself. It doesn’t matter what I do, I blink when the drops get near my lashes, and don’t even think about getting the dropper close to my eye!

    Petite – Glad you liked it. I have a vague idea for an essay about the changing function of the bra over my lifetime, from the sign that I was a real grown up, to something to hide the straps of, to a sign of patriarchal oppression, to an aid to seduction, to a handy warmer of small objects. Eventually, it will probably turn into a place to keep money and important papers, like grandma’s was.

    Comment by I'uli — November 15, 2005 @ 8:09 pm

  29. Philip,
    Thank you for giving us the address to,
    have been laughing out loud since yesterday when I started to read it…

    Comment by croque madame — November 16, 2005 @ 12:31 pm

  30. l’uli,
    It makes me wince to even think about your last point!

    croque madam,
    You’re welcome. There are some great posts on there, especially in the Nubbins Archives and the monthly newsletter to her daughter. Also who would have thought someone else’s poop could be so fascinating?

    I have now had chance to read through much more of your blog. It is well written, often moving (particularly the adoption posts) and I don’t think I have come across any other blog which gets so many comments as yours.

    Comment by Philip — November 16, 2005 @ 2:19 pm

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