M. Giant's
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Monday, June 22, 2009  

Jurassic Playground

We all have different defense mechanisms for dealing with stressful social situations. Some of us get loud and obnoxious. Some of us gobble Paxil. Some of us (and the "us" in this case is not merely rhetorical) nurse a beer. And then another beer.

And then there's my four-year-old, who when surrounded by new people in an unfamiliar setting becomes someone else entirely. One minute he's our adorable little M. Edium, effortlessly charming all who look upon him, with his blond hair, blue eyes, and pink dimples. And then he becomes a total saurischian. More specifically, a theropod. More specifically still, a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

It's not that he isn't out going, because he is. Almost uncomfortably so, from the point of view of an introverted cave-dweller like myself. It just takes him a minute or two to get warmed up. In the case of grown-ups coming over to the house, that takes the form of hiding excitedly in the bathroom for a few moments. But in the case of playing with new kids at the playground, it takes quite a different form. A form that consists of stomping around with the first two fingers on each hand hooked into impotent little claws, roaring and snarling. There have been a few occasions when we wished we could have brought our bathroom from home for him to hide in, because that would have been preferable.

The good news is that I think we caught this behavior pattern early enough to nip it in the egg. When we were camping in Wisconsin last moth and he joined some other kids on the playground, we were alarmed to realize that the other kids were running away from him in fear. Including the older kids.

At about the same time, we started hearing about him scaring some of the other kids at school with this behavior. Obviously this couldn't continue, so we had to find some way to make our tiny king of the predators extinct, despite our not having access to a giant asteroid.

And one of the other ways in which we're lucky to have him is that he's the kind of kid where if you sit down and explain shit to him, he listens and he gets it, especially if trash and I do it together. You just have to use terms he understands.

"When you act like a T. Rex, it scares the other kids."

"..."

"They don't want to play with someone who scares them."

"..."

"Would you like it if someone came at you acting like a T. Rex?"

"…"

"So you shouldn't do it to other kids, then."

"..."

"And if you don't stop, we're going home and you can go to bed."

"Okay, I understand, I won't do it again."

And he does understand, is the thing. You don't have to explain it to him again. But that's not to say he doesn't need some quick reminding once in a while. A few times over the past few weeks, I've actually caught myself calling out from the edge of the sandbox, "M.? No being a T. Rex, remember?" Add that to the growing list of things I never thought I'd say to my kid (which, to be fair, includes about 95% of the things I've ever said to him).

And generally, he remembers right away. It's almost too bad, really. Now I don't have an excuse to stash beer in his snack bag when we go to the park.

posted by M. Giant 6:33 AM 3 comments

3 Comments:

As the mother of a six year old to whom I've had to call out "Sweetie, remember you can't be a cheetah/lion/tiger/ankylosaurus/jaguar on the playground, you have to be *just a kid* remember?" more times than I ever dreamed I would (and then again, I never actually dreamed I'd be shouting those words, ever to my daughter...), I totally hear you. Kiddo doesn't do it so much from an initial shyness standpoint as a "I think I'm going to be XYZ creature this week, no matter where I am or what I'm doing" sort of standpoint. We've had to train her to *ask* the other kid(s) on the playground, friends or strangers, if they would like to play XYZ animal o' the week with Kiddo instead of just running up to them roaring and snarling.

This actually worked one time when Kiddo befriended a little boy on the playground one morning. They played happily together for over an hour, Kiddo being a jaguar the whole time. At one point, his mom said to me "I'm impressed that your daughter likes to play Transformers!" I said "Oh no, I believe they're playing jaguars!" so we asked them - turns out *he* was being a Transformer and *she* was being a jaguar, which somehow worked out just fine. Go figure.

I think M. Edium and Kiddo need to have a playdate so they can roar and snarl and charge each other to their hearts' content. It would be a mighty long car ride to get together though, even if we met in the middle (Michigan? Illinois?) Oh well...

By Blogger Heather, at June 22, 2009 at 6:57 AM  

Jaguar or Transformer? Heck, why decide when you can be both!

This reminds me to wish you a Happy Father's Day, MG. You must be at the very least a pretty decent dad, because your kid is awesome.

(Mmmmm. Beer.)

By Blogger Febrifuge, at June 22, 2009 at 6:43 PM  

Virtual Hi-V for Febrifuge (that's a roman numeral high-five, Mr. Doctor-guy...)

By Blogger Chao, at June 23, 2009 at 12:04 PM  

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