What's Up With The Specs?

I was all set to close the show with a message for my daughter and anyone else who might need a pep-talk... and was surprised by this heartwarming gesture by my friends and colleagues at ABC 7 Chicago.

Posted by Tanja Babich ABC7 on Friday, December 4, 2020

Several months of remote learning had passed, and Tanja Babich’s 10-year-old daughter was struggling with one part of virtual school: wearing her glasses.

The student worried about what her classmates would think or say, and she got upset when her mom told her she couldn’t ditch the frames. So Babich, a morning news anchor for ABC 7 Chicago, made her daughter a promise: Every day last week, she would wear her own glasses on live TV.

“I guess it’s a lead-by-example thing,” Babich told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “If you’re going to tell them that it’s no big deal to wear glasses and you have glasses, shouldn’t you wear them?”

The gesture, first reported by Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens, delighted Babich’s viewers at the end of her show Friday. She thanked the people who had reached out to say they liked seeing her in glasses and told them her daughter was worried about wearing her own frames.

“So in a gesture of solidarity, I’ve been wearing mine all week to make this point: Whatever people say or think about you is none of your business,” Babich said on air. “Just be yourself, authentically and unapologetically. The rest will work itself out.”

Then the camera cut to photos of celebrities wearing glasses, including pop superstar Taylor Swift and actress Jennifer Aniston, before flipping to a split-screen of seven ABC 7 team members wearing their own frames in solidarity — a surprise to Babich, who didn’t know her executive producer had asked her colleagues to wear their glasses that day for the segment.

“That brought me to tears,” Babich said later, “and we cut to credits just in time.”

At home, her daughter, whose name Babich declined to share, watched a playback of her mom proudly wearing her specs in front of thousands of people. A slow smile crept across the girl’s face, Babich recalled.

Her daughter has also seen some of the hundreds of photos her viewers sent of their own kids wearing glasses after Babich invited submissions. Since she sent out the call Friday, her Twitter feed has been full of retweeted photos of kids wearing their own frames — blue ones and green ones, round ones and rectangular ones.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall … Thank you for making it beautiful!” one person tweeted alongside a photo of a little girl in unicorn pajamas and pink glasses peering through a fake mirror.

“Here is my girl with her transition lenses which she loves,” another parent wrote with a photo. “She’s had glasses since she was 1! Love this video and I will never understand why kids would make fun of other kids for something that helps them be able to SEE.”

Babich, an Emmy Award-winning anchor in Chicago since 2014, is trying to respond to each photo with a reminder to each child that they’re beautiful not despite their glasses, but partly because of them. Kids don’t always believe their parents, she said, so maybe one more voice chiming in with encouragement can make a difference.

In her own family’s case, Babich’s daughter still doesn’t like her glasses. But she feels a little better about them than she did before, and Babich is brushing aside praise from other people who have said she’s doing a great job as a mom.

“I certainly don’t have all the answers,” she said. “I’m just glad that the answer I came up with for this particular situation or struggle is one that clicked.”

Because of Babich, lots of kids have heard that their frames look perfect on them. The ABC 7 team experienced a nice moment of solidarity.

And Babich’s daughter now wears her glasses.

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