Raising a Kid Who’s Never Met a Stranger

We took our kids out to dinner the other day with my in-laws to celebrate our soon-to-be 7-year-old’s birthday and he was in rare, charming form.

He chatted up the waitress, impressing her with his questions, knowledge of dinosaurs and Pokemon and his natural, inquisitive nature about everything from the menu to the restaurant’s choice of coloring books. He also displayed good manners, showing that my wife and I have put in at least a little bit of work on him.

At one point the waitress complimented him. “You have great hair,” she said.

“I know,” he replied. “Everyone always talks about my curls.”

The waitress laughed and laughed. She was hooked.

This is typical 7 and he’s been like this even before he could utter a word. As a baby, he charmed with his eyes, engaged with his smile, captivated with a look. He is and has always been a happy, ebullient child who is not afraid to talk, ask questions or share his opinion. It is a blessing.

Until it’s not. Sometimes his outgoing nature makes my wife and I feel that we must apologize for him or cut him off before he monopolizes a conversation. For instance, at a school event the other morning, he cornered a dad with a never-ending monologue about Minecraft. This dad didn’t want to be rude walking away from my son but this was neither the time nor place for a thorough disussion of the game and its intricacies.

It’s also a challenge at times because he believes he is the fastest runner, the best singer, the smartest person in the room. (We can thank his teacher for that. She once called him a “Brainin” and he won’t let us forget it.) He is smart (one of the best students in his class) and he possesses a deep foundation of knowledge combined with an insatiable desire to acquire more. We’re fortunate in that regard.

But even with all his attributes, there are limits. And therein lies the greatest dilemma.

We love the fact that he is confident and comfortable in his own skin. The last thing we want to do is water-down his unique, joyful, giving spirit, because that is something that truly sets him apart from his peers and gives him meaning. However, at some point he needs to learn to self-edit. And there are times when we have to pull him aside or stop him from going on and on about himself or something he is interested in.

It might simply be in his genes. Unbeknownst to him, he comes from two parents also skilled in engagement. My wife and I met while doing theater and are no strangers to public performance. In fact, as a child, I used to memorize Bill Cosby comedy albums and recite them word for word to the captive lifeguards working at the community pool in our neighborhood. (By the way, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to each of them for all their time I wasted.) So, we are intimately aware of being a young person who is comfortable speaking to adults, expressing themselves with a proclivity for conversation.

This is one of those moments where my wife and I struggle with this question — Is it better for us to engage him on these issues or is it better to let him learn these lessons from the world? There will be people who don’t think he’s the bees-knees. There will be people who don’t want to listen to him pontificate. There will be people who are rude and abrasive and only want to knock him off his lofty perch.

At almost 7 years old, there’s plenty of time for him to begin a process of self-awareness. Plus, he seems to be emotionally smart as well, which should help him to pick up on social cues and the like that will inform his decisions. For now, he lives in a bubble of hyper-success and love. He is surrounded by people who, largely, revere him and reinforce his accomplishments. Surely, we don’t want to do anything to alter his perception or diminish his place in that nirvana-like world. But the real world won’t always be as kind, and as parents, we want to do all we can to cushion him from that reality.

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The Beginning
About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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