Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Where's your poke?

Rachel has taken to poking herself in the eye. A lot. I'm not really sure what spurred it on, exactly. She has just always liked eyes.


She loves everything about eyes. She loves eyelashes. She loves that eyes can open and close. She love how pretty and shiny they are. She loves to poke them.

Ever since she was a little baby we've been telling her "play nice" and "don't poke." She's an eye-gouger. It's the first thing she goes for on toys, on animals, on other children, on pictures. If something has an eye, she'll be interested in it, so we're always telling her to not poke, regardless of whether the victim is living or non. It's all good practice for being nice since she doesn't seem to be able to separate the idea of "it's okay to poke my teddy's eyes but not my friend's" yet. We just try to not poke at all.

Her friend, Amy, has one of those dolls whose eyes close if you lay it down. Rachel will sit there holding the doll, just digging her little fingers under the eyelids. She thinks it's great. And it was kind of cute until she tried it on Rudy at church. Then it was not-so cute.

She's never really noticed her own eyes, though, although everyone else in the world seems to have.

Rachel has very pretty eyes, and I'm not the only one who thinks that. Complete strangers come up to her and tell her what pretty eyes she has. They're big. They're blue. They're always wide-open. And now they're always getting poked.

For Rachel, the word "poke" and the word "eye" are completely synonymous. She reacts to words on cue, but only when she wants to. She's kind of like the 3000 pound whales at Sea World. She'll perform, but we can't really tell her to do anything. We just ask her to, very nicely, and she decides whether or not she'll do it. So, if Rachel hears the word "eye," she will only touch her eye about 30% of the time. But if she hears the word "poke," there's a 90% chance that she will touch her eyes.

She thinks "poke" means "eye."

Andrew pointed this out to me, but I didn't believe him. I mean, I know that we tell Rachel not to poke often, but surely we don't tell her that often.

And then I read her the story Ollie. It's a cute, simple story with a lot of action words and she seemed to like it a lot.

"He stands on his head," I read.

Rachel obediently reached up to touch her head.

"Gossie pokes Ollie with her bill," I read.

Rachel squinted her eyes and slowly moved her index finger up to her eye. She gave herself a good, solid, deliberate poke.


I couldn't help but burst out laughing. Andrew was right. Rachel really does think that "poke" means "eye." I said nothing about eyes, but her association with poking is so strong that she reaches for it anyway.

The next page mentions "ear" and Rachel will reach up and tug on that, too, although not quite as brutally as she pokes herself in the eye.

Perhaps this little phase will teach her that she shouldn't poke others in the eye. It just can't feel good!

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