It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a baby attracts other people’s children. What amuses me most about this is that, generally, the children fawning over the “little baby” are very nearly little babies themselves. As with the play group politics, I’m still trying to navigate the waters of how to act when Robbie catches the eye of someone else’s child. We began frequenting The Reservoir about a week ago, and we have met many children enamored with a “baby”. I’m learning there are different categories of children, and they (and their parents, when present) must be approached in distinctly different ways.
First we have the “Zackies”. These are the only children of older parents who don’t subscribe to any form of real discipline; their children will probably end up in a Montessori setting and then drive their high school teachers bananas when they refuse to participate in class discussions because they just aren’t feeling up to it. At a younger level, these are the children who throw grass in my son’s face and then get entirely too close for any sort of socially appropriate comfort, usually with an open mouth. These are the children with a regular name that should not have a “y” added to it but whose parents use the “y” with a whiny tone to curb undesired behavior (“Zacky, you shouldn’t throw grass and sand at the baby’s face”). You must escape from these children (and, more importantly, their parents) quickly. I’ve found the best way to do this is to have a specific location in mind and head there, Robbie in tow. For example, a look at the watch and a quick, “Oh, we only have 45 minutes to swim. We better hit the water” worked last Saturday.
The next group of children Robbie and I seem to attract are the show-offs. And I mean this in the nicest way, as these are my favorite form of other people’s children. They are generally very well-spoken and excited about whatever talent they may want to share with you. I love seeing a five year old (she will be six on next June 5th, which is, incidentally, a Sunday) demonstrate her dolphin swim (she had to get her mom to put her goggles on first, and then she held her nose and floated for a few seconds). I love a little girl who introduces herself by saying, “I’m Jessie, but you can call me Jess. Jessie’s a very popular name. There’s a song about it. It’s called ‘Jessie’s Girl.’ Want to see me dance?” I think these are the children whose parents have generally tired of watching them be dolphins and dancers, and so I let them perform for Robbie and me. I like seeing what stages Robbie will go through and what he might be able to do next August (when he’s one but will be two next July 28th, which will be a Thursday).
The third group that I’ve found are the the know-it-alls. They seem to know everything that a baby can’t do and why. Today, for instance, we met four-and-a-half-year-old Caleb. He informed us with a very serious face that Robbie could not go near the fountain because it was too cold and would be scary for a baby. He told us that he would go in, check it out, and let us know how it was. Another place we have encountered this group of children is at the gym. All of the kids at the play center there want to show Robbie the “right” way to play with blocks or roll a truck. Robbie seems to have found the best way to deal with this type of child. He listens to what they say with a serious look on his face and then does whatever the hell he pleases. And now I follow suit.
There are some commonalities with all children of other people. They all seem to want to tell you their age, generally down to months (remember when you were six-and-five-eights?), commenting on how much older they are than the baby that attracted them in the first place. They also like to speak for their younger siblings (well, the show-offs and the know-it-alls; the Zackies don’t typically have siblings). And, perhaps most interesting to deal with, they all want to touch the baby. I’ve gotten a little more accepting of this as Robbie has gotten older, and I’m still not quite sure how to tell someone else’s child to please get their grubby hands off my son. I guess I’m much better at correcting other people’s children when they are in my classroom…