During our drive back from our vacation in Virginia last month, we stopped at a Burger King in the middle of nowhere. Aside from our little clan, all of the other patrons appeared to be construction and utility workers who were wolfing down a quick lunch before heading back to their respective job sites. We had been in the car for hours and apparently the lack of social interaction was taking a toll on my daughter. As we were tossing out our garbage and preparing to leave, the kid headed back to the front of the restaurant and started chatting up some of the men who were in line. Picture a sea of steel-toed work boots and one wee pair of pink flip-flops from Old Navy.
"Okay, let's go!" I said loudly, as P and I were inching towards the exit. I could hear her telling them her name, advising them that she has a Barbie princess movie, and informing her new friends that her aunt had painted her toenails. Basically, she seemed pretty determined to impart enough information that would facilitate any random stranger's ability to kidnap her. Again, I'm not giving her her social security number until her wedding day.
Earlier in our vacation, she stopped to chat with a homeless man during our outing to Old Town Alexandria. I didn't want to pull her away immediately because I didn't want her to think she can't be friendly and talk to folks as the whim hits her. And I didn't want HIM to think that I didn't want my daughter chatting him up just because he's homeless. So, I let her go for a minute or two.
Her: Hi, what are you doing?
Him: I'm peeling a peach. (There was a farmers' market going on across the way.)
Her: Why are you peeling a peach?
Him: I don't like the fuzz.
Her: You don't like the fuzz?
Me: Okay, leave the man alone now.
For the most part, people are generally tolerant of a chatty child. Adults who talk to strangers sometimes end up with restraining orders, but most people are pretty happy to talk to a kid. A couple months ago, we attended a picnic with my old therapy dog group. A was the only kid there - not that she minded. The picnic was held at the home of one of our members, and we had a bunch of dogs running around in the large, fenced yard. As we were leaving, A stopped to chat with my friend Barb while I gathered Giddy and Gretchen and leashed them. When I got to the gate, Barb filled me in on what my child had been telling her. A, with much sympathy in her voice, told my friend: "You are really going to miss me when I leave. You are going to be so sad!"
Can you imagine having so much confidence in yourself that each time you leave a particular location, you believe that anyone still present after your departure will crumble into utter despair? I saw Barb a few days after that and she reported that while she hadn't yet needed therapy, she came pretty close.
On Friday evening, I took the kid to the park after dinner. The park in our neighborhood is about a mile away, so I usually pull her there in a wagon. She loves the park, but she loves it even more if there are people there. We got to the park and there were two families already swinging and sliding and whatnot. Eureka! The only catch was that the kids were younger, 2 1/2 or so (they were the same approximate height as my kid, but two years younger). These youngsters seemed unable to provide the level of interaction my daughter requires so she went for the next best thing: their parents. She found one couple sitting on a bench and would not give them any peace, so eventually I picked her up and carried her back to her wagon.
So, what to do with all of this outgoingness? (that's a word, I'm sure of it) Well, I've contacted a local children's theater to get the scoop. Most of the children they cast in their productions are closer to 10. However, they do have a Christmas production for which younger kids are needed. So, I'm half-tempted to let her audition later this year. If not, we'll plan to get her started on the road to fame and fortune when she gets a few years older.