The first time our daughter, 16 months old, said, “Eyes hurt,” I had just put her in the car seat after a trip to the beach. I wiped her face gently, and hoped I hadn’t gotten lotion in her eye. Then she said, “Eyes hurt,” on the changing table one evening, and I said, “Are you tired? Yeah, me, too.”
I’m thrilled at how she’s become an effective communicator. She says, “Bump,” when she bumps her head, which is a few times a day. Children her age are so active and so clumsy, my friends and I compare injuries when we get together. This one has a fat lip from falling on her face; that one has mosquito bites all over; a third scraped his tush running around the yard naked.
Only recently did my husband and I realize that our daughter will say “Hurt, hurt,” when she doesn’t want to do something—like wear a bib to eat, or read the last book before bed. She’s especially resistant to being put in the car seat, only for a minute, and then she enjoys the ride (usually to someplace fun and exciting for her). She’s actually faking it. She’s lying.
Where did this hypochondria arise from? When did it occur to her to lie or trick us into giving her sympathy? I’m sure this behavior is common for toddlers, but I’m surprised by its spontaneous appearance. Sure, she’s a ham. You can see her acting sometimes. She’ll toss her head around in funny ways to get a laugh, and also become super affectionate sometimes, walking over and kissing us on the leg or arm, and melting us to puddles. So, while we’re doing some necessary chores that she may not want to do, she says, “Head. Bump. Hurt. Hurt.” But it’s not real! She’ll say “Eyes. Eyes. Hurt.” Sometimes she’ll cycle through them all. When I start pouring water on her head in the bath, she’ll say, “Hot. Hot.” Even though it’s not too hot.
The question is, where did she get the idea to fake us out and try to manipulate us? She’s not even a year and a half old. And how should we respond? The first few times, I actually worried her eyes were hurting, so I tried my best to soothe her. But now she’s crying wolf. One thought is to honor her words, and soothe her when she says these things, and let her live with the truth. But usually we say, “You’re fine,” or “Come on, that’s not true.” Maybe I’ll say, “Let me see your eyes. They look fine to me,” so in part I’m validating her claim, and also teaching her that I can see nothing’s wrong.
I’ll have to ask my mother if I pulled this schtick when I was little. As parents of a toddler who isn’t in daycare, we assume almost all her behavior stems from us. So, whenever her behavior baffles us, we look to ourselves to understand how we may have cultured it.
Aha! We also marvel at her blonde hair and blue eyes, neither of which resembles our own features. So maybe hypochondria, too, is a recessive trait, that comes from the grandparents? That must be it.