I don’t like talking to people that I don’t know. Maybe that’s where Potamus gets it. Once someone is in my inner circle of trust, it’s different, they’re “my people” (as my son would say) and I feel free to move about the cabin like normal. Strangers? No thank you, and not in a stranger danger way, but just like a wary who are you and can I trust you?
So it really shouldn’t surprise me, that Potamus is fine at the park with “his people,” Mari’s sons, but as soon as some other random kid comes along, he asks “who’s that? who’s that people?” And even when I say, “I don’t know who that kid is, but it’s okay, just play with your people if you want,” he gets afraid, timid, worried about someone else in his space. And so, today I decided to do something different. I can’t just have my 3.5 year old sitting on my lap at every play date with a strange kid within 50 yards.
I took him by hand and walked him over to strange kid, kneeled down, and said, “excuse me, my son would like to know what your name is. His name is Potamus.” And the kid said, “I’m Pedro,” and then went to play. And after that Potamus was fine playing in the same neighborhood as Pedro.
But two minutes later a man walks up to me and asks, “did something happen? Did he do something wrong?” Figuring this was Pedro’s dad, I said,
Oh no! My son is shy and wanted to know who your son was. So I showed up how to introduce himself. He goes to school, but is sometimes nervous about kids he doesn’t know on the playground.
The dad looked SO relieved that his kid wasn’t being punished or berated, and said, “that’s a good idea, teaches them manners.” I smiled and he left.
But about 10 minutes later I see him crouched down with his kid saying, “so you can go up to someone and ask them what their name is. It’s called introducing yourself. That way you know who they are.”
So, pass it on folks, modeling manners works!
The next kid we tried it on was not interested at all in talking to me or didn’t speak English. Potamus was not impressed with my introduction skills that time.