Saturday, January 17, 2009

And Then I Socialized Them.

So my daughter said something today that was (unintentionally) side-splittingly funny--but only among those of us who are steeped in the lore of the homeschooling movement. For the rest of you reading this, trust me--it was funny.

Now, our six-year-old daughter is a strange beast, in many ways. She's very often off in her own little world; imagining things the way she wants them to be, in a manner that would make Spaceman Spiff's mild-mannered(?!) alter-ego proud. If you come upon her at random and ask her what's been going on in her life, you might get a description of her day, or her latest craft project; or you might get a ten-minute lecture on the workings of the human spleen, or Chapter Seven of the tale that she's been making up and trying to tell everyone in her family (since about 10:00 this morning). The thing is, you never know in advance what you'll get with her.

But oddly enough, unlike most people who are lost in their own little internal world much of the time, the Fairy isn't shy. She's actually quite extroverted. Or rather, she may meet the technical definitions of an introvert, in that she spends most of her time in the internal world of her own imagination; but she's generally quite outgoing. She thinks nothing of going up to complete strangers--adults included, and in fact preferred--and introducing herself (and her whole family).

Now maybe my vantage point is a little odd, since the Fairy is my firstborn daughter, and I don't have a whole lot of experience dealing with other people's six-year-olds. But it seems to me that this kind of behavior is a little unusual. Most school-age kids (and this becomes more and more true the older the kids get) shy away from adults they don't know. In fact, they're trained to. Most of us have had the "Don't talk to strangers" mantra drilled into our heads from very young ages. And I suspect that when kids go to school and spend most of their time around other kids, they eventually become more comfortable around kids their own ages, and less comfortable around adults. But the Fairy has no fear of adults at this point. She thinks nothing of going up to them and introducing herself, her parents, and her siblings; and telling them about her latest video, and her latest toy, and her latest adventures she's been on (and the fact that she just scraped her knee and had to have a band-aid put on it), and whatever else comes to mind.

And it's rather amusing from Daddy's point of view, to watch the often bewildered reactions of the adults thus targetted by my little girl. It's clear that most of them are completely surprised that some cute young girl just came traipsing up to them to tell them all about her world. But most of them take it in stride, and start engaging her in conversation right back--asking her questions, commenting on her latest adventures. Most of them seem to enjoy meeting my girl. But, of course, I generally hover nearby, ready to rescue them if it appears my girl is starting to monopolize their attention.

Well, all that is to set the stage for today's little outing to the park. I figured it had been a few weeks since the Fairy and I had a chance to ride our bikes together, so my wife and I loaded up the family and the bikes and headed over to the park. And while Tonya and the younger two headed over to the playground equipment to play, the Fairy and I rode on all the walkways through the park. There were a lot of people out today, many of whom were walking their dogs; and the Fairy wanted to say Hi to most of the people she met.

I've been trying to get her comfortable with being on her own and doing things on her own, so I would make suggestions like, "Let's ride over to that Oak tree way over there. You take the path on the right, and I'll take the other path to the left, and we'll see who gets there first." So she would be riding all by herself, with me on a completely different path, several hundred yards away. And this worked well, most of the time.

But of course, the Fairy is still a beginning bike rider (though she's getting much better!), and on one occasion in particular she fell over--while I was a few hundred yards away. She scraped up her hands, and was having difficulty extracting herself from the bike, and had started crying. Well, at this point a young couple to whom the Fairy had already introduced herself (along with their big black Lab) got up from their bench, and came over to help her out. They got her untangled, and helped her get up, and were inspecting her scraped hands when I finally caught up. After we got her bike upright again, she told them "Thank You", and I had the Fairy ride over to the playground equipment where the rest of the family was, because she wanted to take a break from riding and do something else that was fun.

She started telling me enthusiastically all about that young couple who had helped her out. So I started asking details, like, "Did you get their names?" (No. Still has some work to do here...) But she described how she earlier had gone up to them, and said Hi, and had met their dog...

Whereupon she happily announced: "And then I socialized them."

I admit it, I couldn't help myself. I immediately erupted into laughter. And then when the Fairy got on the playground equipment to do her thing, I had to go over to Tonya and repeat her words, whereupon my wife also immediately erupted into laughter.

That's my daughter, proudly performing her civic duty and making certain the adults of the nation have been properly socialized. Judging from their slightly bewildered reactions, many of them need it.

I'm so proud of her.


kat said...

My oldest (now 10) is the same way. We can't go for a walk or to the park without him striking up a conversation with some grown-up. I was told the summer he was 7 about 10 times that he will be a US Senator when he grows up becauase he is so friendly and outgoing (over my dead body will be be a slimy politician).

It IS the homeschooling. They don't have that "I can't talk to you because you aren't my age" bit going. My almost 9 year old girl still likes to hold my hand when we take a walk. Find me a public school kid who will still be seen with their parents in 4th grade!

Haynel said...

I totally agree. I'm definitely homeschooling my kids next course. I just don't want to (litterally) lose them! This morning, after so many days without classes(what a waste of time!)they confessed they HATE school. It's so good to read these blogs and learn from parents who've been through this before. Thanks!

Dana said...

Too funny! Good job Fairy!

My oldest (age 7) is the same way! We've homeschooled from the beginning and my children are always much more outgoing and friendly to people we meet while out and about. The surprised looks are very familiar to us. What always gets me is the children who back away and hide behind their parents when my children say hello. Who's the more socialized now?

~Dana @ Our Sunny Side