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The Art of Learning Social Skills or the Fine Line between Cute and Embarrassing

Yes, Kermit is Your Friend (Gatineau, March 2014)
Yes, Kermit is Your Friend (Gatineau, March 2014)

On my good days, I am pretty certain that if we would all stop being a bunch of selfish assholes and learn to fucking get along, the world would be a much better place.

I am putting my hopes into the next generation.

That means Mark.

Dragon toddler is old enough: I decided it was time for him to socialise and learn life skills.

I am lucky: he is usually fairly well behaved. All kids can have a meltdown but I have zero tolerance for unruly brats (and parents who just sit there doing nothing). Mark is also adaptable since he has been exposed to a variety of environments and situations since he was born, from flying abroad to traveling, from sitting in restaurants to going through airport security, from going to museums to doing the daily grocery shopping.

As much as I hate going to the mall, we don’t have any other options since it is still unusually cold outside. So I use this opportunity (if you can call pacing the mall at 10 a.m. on a Monday morning an “opportunity”!) to teach him a few skills. We go inside different stores and we look, but we don’t touch. If we pick something on the shelf, we put it back. We queue patiently while mommy is getting a drink (oh come on, it’s coffee!). We say “hi” and “thank you”. We mind other people and we don’t scream.

Sure, Mark loves playing hide and seek in clothing stores but he comes back to me as soon as I call him (I am never far, obviously). He can dance to whatever music is playing in stores but we move out of the way. He can touch toys (eh, they put them at kid’s level!) but he knows I won’t buy them and he is okay with it (gotta say “bye bye!” to the toys, though). He holds my hand and while he can explore by himself for a little while, he doesn’t go far.

The hard part is interacting with other people.

Mark, like any other kid, is curious and open minded. He has no concept of taboos, political correctness or politeness.

It can be either refreshingly cute or embarrassing (depending how much coffee I’ve had).

Sometime, he tries to get people’s attention, especially when I am focusing on something else than him (e.g. if I am taking a call or looking for a product). I certainly don’t expect strangers to entertain Mark (who is not a special snowflake) but he looks very sad if people ignore him. “Mark,” I remind him. “You can say ‘hi’ but not everybody wants to play with you and that’s fine. People are busy.”

Mark also has a thing for Black guys. I don’t know why, but every time he sees a Black guy, he is super friendly to him. Well, I am sure most Black guys don’t feel like entertaining a Canadian-Chinese-French toddler so I try to keep Mark from running after them.

On the other side, Mark isn’t particularly fond of old ladies—maybe he remembers that they would always try to touch him when he was a newborn and I had him in the sling? If Mark can be rude and ignore the “oh-so-cute” comments, I can’t. I usually smile and make Mark pay attention for a second or two. It is good enough.

To Mark, anything different is fun. The other day, a guy using a wheelchair was slaloming skillfully between tables at the food court. Mark started running after him—for a second, I feared he was going to try to push the wheelchair like he pushes the cart at the supermarket. I stopped him right on time. “See, Mark. Some people use a special chair to get around. Look how fast he is going… it’s pretty cool, eh?”

While most Muslim women in Ottawa only wear the ḥijāb, we saw someone wearing the full niqāb, covering the entire face. Mark stared for a second and tried to pull his hood over his face as well. “Mark,” I muttered to him. “It is her dress, the woman is not playing hide and seek!”

Thanks God, Mark isn’t talking yet. I think it’s going to get interesting when he does!

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