How to Read an Eye Chart

December, 2010

I haven’t hung out with three-year old kids for a long time, and I miss it. I didn’t realize this until today. I work at a medical clinic, and every now and then a child who has come in with an adult needs to be cared for while their grown-up has an exam, or x-rays or blood drawn. Today I happened to be available to watch over a three-year-old girl whose real name I never learned. The name she wanted to be called was “Tangled”.

“Tangled?” I asked – twice. She simply nodded. Now if I had been chummy with more three-year-old kids, I would have known that Tangled is the name of a Disney movie, a re-make of the Rapunzel story. But, alas, I have been buddy-ing with people my own age, so I was completely in the dark. Thankfully one of my co-workers enlightened me.

This happy, lively, three-year old had long, straight, brown hair with bangs, fair skin, and blue eyes. The top of her head did not quite reach my hip, so as we walked along the clinic hallway hand in hand, I saw only the top of her head. I began to chat away on subjects that I thought might interest my young companion.  Tangled, on the other hand, wasn’t much into conversation. She was scoping the place out,  and soon her gaze landed on the clinic’s colorful sticker collection. She said nothing but looked intently up at the wide array of stickers on the display rack.

“Would you like to pick out a sticker or two?” I said. I saw the top of her head bob up and down. “Which ones would you like?” I asked, waving my hand in front of the stickers like Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune. “Farm animals, monkeys, cars?” She shook her head no. “Have you got any ‘Tangled’?” she asked. I searched high and low for the sticker of her choice but came up empty. I offered her everything we had, but she said “No, thank you.” I had forgotten that a three-year old could be so definite about her choices. She had her eyes on the prize and stayed with her decision although the monkey stickers almost won her over.

Her mom hadn’t emerged from the exam room yet, so we went for another stroll around the hallways when I spotted a Kindergarten Eye Exam Chart on the treatment room door. We walked up to the chartKindergaten Eye Chart and looked at it. One by one, I pointed to the symbols on the chart, and asked her to name them.  She got them all – the heart, the star, the cup – and she even correctly identified the ship and the moon. “Very bright three-year old,” I thought to myself. Then I pointed to the flag symbol, not really expecting her to know what it was. “What is this, Tangled? Can you tell me something about this shape?” I asked. She looked at it for a moment and then she glanced up at me and said, “It means my Daddy is gone to fight in the war.” Stunned speechless, I stared down at my little friend.

Her mom came out of the room then, and Tangled ran off to join her. I waved goodbye, and stood in front of the eye chart for a few minutes. What a profound answer that little one had given about the flag symbol on the eye chart. Clear, definite, precise – she couldn’t call the symbol by its specific name,  but she knew what it meant to her: Daddy, his absence, his important work. I think she passed her eye exam with flying colors, don’t you?

2 thoughts on “How to Read an Eye Chart

  1. Teri~ I loved the blog entry that you wrote. It grabbed my heart that she called herself “Tangled!” It made me think of what I would like to be called if I chose a name for myself. I remember Anne Shirley asking Merilla(sp?) if she would call her ,”Cordilia?” because she loved the way it made her feel special or a certain way. I found it way cool that you did not press her for her real name, but left it as Tangled. You are the kind of Grandma that I would like to be some day!

    • Thanks, Heidi, for reading and commenting! As far as a youngster desiring a different name, John and I have had a little experience with that. One snowy afternoon, our 4 year old daughter Kristin watched a tv movie about a little black boy named Joseph who wanted to be a tap dancer. Not long after the movie ended, we heard Kristin tapping away in her bedroom, using her best hard-soled shoes as tap shoes. The next thing we knew she was asking us to call her Joseph! Even at church she told our friends that her name was Joseph. So when Tangled asked to be called by a make-believe name, I had that life episode to draw from.
      I think in the few minutes that I had with Tangled what impressed me so strongly was Tangled’s explanation about the flag symbol. It reminded me how thoroughly children absorb what is taking place around them. If we adults think young children don’t closely observe what is going on in our families, we are very wrong. Even a three year old understands on some level what is happening at home, as Tangled demonstrated. “Out of the mouths of babes,”right?
      Thanks again for stopping by the blog, Heidi!

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