Cross-Eyed Warning

Informant: If you cross your eyes and someone hits you, your eyes will be stuck like that forever.

As a child, the informant was told that if someone hit her while she crossed her eyes, they would get stuck like that.

She was first told this after she started to learn and practice crossing her eyes. Various family members and adults told her this and she became very conscious of who was around when she crossed her eyes. She wouldn’t cross her eyes when her brother was around because he was likely to hit her to see if they would get stuck.

Collector: When you say “hit”, do you mean hard, like a punishment, or just a tap?

Informant: Definitely something more playful. Not like a punishment or anything designed to cause physical pain.

Collector: why do you think that this warning didn’t make you stop crossing your eyes?

Informant: I was so proud of myself that I could cross my eyes that I didn’t want to stop. Instead, I just thought I’d keel a look out for anyone prowling around trying to slap me.

The informant says that this warning did not stop her from crossing her eyes, she became very guarded whenever she did practice the act.

It seems that in many warnings children are told, adults choose to use a threat of supernatural or exaggerated levels. In this case, the adults in the informant’s life chose to exaggerate what would happen. One possible explanation is that children are less concerned with scientific reasoning or societal etiquette and must be influenced controlled by more embellished reasoning that speak to their childhood imagination and creativity.

By using the phrase hitting instead of touching or some other gentler form of contact, adults reinforce childhood violence as well as adding an extra sense of fear. It also can seem more realistic to children that a violent hitting would cause something in your body to make your eyes stick whereas just a gentle touch would be less plausible to have an impact.