Some of my kids I worry about, but not so much Kid E. What is one of the most critical things to master in the grown-up world? People Skills. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t know how to deal with people. And the best of the best always seem to leave us wanting more. That’s why I think Kid E is on his way to having it all figured out. Seriously. But did I mention that he is three?
He goes to pre-school a few mornings a week. Pre-school in a strip mall. I learned years ago that the best pre-schools are not the pretty new buildings with the high-tech computer rooms for babies and the young, sexy teachers (Sheepdog was sad, sad, sad when I figured that out), but the best places to send your kids are the ones that sometimes smell just faintly of pee and have women running the show in sweatpants and ball caps. Some of the best pre-school teachers and day care providers I have met have been the ones who work in older facilities that have been around for ages and put more money into macaroni and glitter than any of that other unnecessary stuff. These are the women who usually have kids of their own and they have been through all of it and yet they still choose to work in a place filled with other people’s snotty, whiny children all day long. They actually like what they do and they care about my kids. These are the women I want running my pre-school show.
Anyway, Kid E goes to school and he loves it. He learns letters and shapes and colors and songs. He ends his days with a sticker and a stamp. It doesn’t get much better than that for him. He really loves his teacher. She came in mid-year and replaced another teacher who he couldn’t get enough of, yet apparently he loves the new one more. Do you want to know how I know? He paid her his highest compliment. He totally grabbed both of her cheeks with both of his sweaty little hands and looked her straight in the eyes and said with all the seriousness he could muster, “You’re. Not. Ugly.” And, just like that (snap!), she was putty in his hands.
It is true because shortly after he buttered her up they had a conflict regarding the overuse of hand soap in the bathroom. She was (rightfully) telling him not to do something and he got mad at her. She stuck to her guns and he shut her out the rest of the day. He wasn’t disrespectful (not allowed), but he withheld hugs and would not even say goodbye when we left. I could see the pain in her eyes as he left her. I think that she probably cried herself to sleep that night. I told her that she should be ashamed for allowing a little kid to outsmart her. He was becoming a master puppeteer already. We are in for some serious manipulation, folks.
Think about the genius of it for a moment. We all love to have compliments paid to us. Don’t you get a little extra bounce in your walk if somebody notices a new haircut or mentions how cute your outfit is on any regular day? Of course you do. And it is hard to deny the drawing power of someone who plays hard to get. That unreachable, untouchable, unattainable something or someone can be like crack if you get it in your head deep enough. Somehow, with three simple words this kid managed to combine the two. It’s not really a compliment, yet it makes you feel like you are special. It is actually just a negated insult presented as kudos. Unbelievable.
So my little Pre-School Playa continued to woo the masses. He sensed the power and started to dole out variations like, “You’re not scary” and “You don’t smell bad.” People would eat it up. They think he is charming. He was starting to get comfortable and I was momentarily a little worried that he might grow up to be one of those jerks who only gave out backhand compliments as some sort of control move. This was the kind of boy that I didn’t ever want coming near my daughters. What if I became the Mother of one? I had to stop this behavior immediately, no matter how cute it was coming from a toddler. Then one day out of the blue he grabbed both of my cheeks with both of his sweaty little hands, looked me straight in the eyes and said with all the sincerity in the world, “You. Are. Cute.” My heart swelled with joy as I replied, “and You’re. Not. Stupid.”
Nope, I really don’t worry so much about that kid.