"What's your name?"
I look up from behind the short shelves of children's books. I find myself here every Saturday now. While I spend the time looking over other children's stories to see if I can gain any insights into children's literature, I'm not there for the books. I'm there to keep an eye on the two girls in my charge who are playing in the small castle featured in our library.
The girls love it.
"I wanna know your name," the girl whines. "What's your name?"
I'm terrible with ages, but she's probably five or six. She accosts the silent two and three year olds one more time. "Tell me your name."
'Oh no,' I think to myself. See, we've taught them to only give out their name when they've been given permission. We've encouraged them to be nice, polite and to greet others, but to be more possessive of their name.
This is obviously not true of the other girl. She appears to be from a system where divulging your name is the foundational ritual of all social interactions. And within the confines of a classroom, this makes sense. But this isn't a classroom. This is a public library. And loud
talking whining is not socially acceptable.
The girl moves on, giving up on her quest. She heads to the stairs of the little castle and one in my charge follows.
"No!" she yells. "You can't come up here. There can only be one Queen and I'm the Queen. You can't come up here."
Undeterred by this ludicrous babble, the three year old again attempts to take the stairs. The bigger girl spreads her feet and grabs hold of the railing, blocking all entry.
"NO!" she yells again. "I'm the Queen and there can only be one Queen. And I say you can't come up here. You can't come up because I want to be alone. And I'm the Queen. And there can only be one Queen."
I almost ask this little troll where her parents are.
I almost remind her that this is a library and of the importance of being polite and that understanding social protocol is essential if one is to be queen. In short, to be quiet, like the two in my care who haven't raised their voices above a whisper since we entered the building 15 minutes ago.
I almost inform her that the two girls she is addressing care nothing of being queen. They want to be princesses. And of princesses there need be no limit.
But I stand back, half obstructed by children's books, watching to see what will unfold. The six year old troll continues to shout about her self-appointed title 1 and how it grants her exclusive rights to the castle--for, as she points out again and again, only the Queen can live in the castle, and there can only be one queen and that would be her.
When the girl's parents do not appear, I gently coach the three year old. "Use your words," I quietly remind.
"Please can you move?" she asks in a whisper. I almost explode with pride.
"No, I'm Queen," comes the loud and obnoxious reply.
My surrogate dauther turns to me. "Oh, she said, 'No.'"
"She did," I agree, nodding encouragingly. We've been working on not trying to force your will on another. You may make requests, but not demands. If your request is turned down, you must live with it.
The older girl has started up the last four steps to the upper level of the castle.
"She's moved," I tell mine. "You can go up now."
The troll stops and glares at the little girl. "No. I don't want her to come up," she says.
"That's too bad," I calmly reply.
The troll, completely unable to handle adult conversation, mounts the last few steps and sits down, singing to herself about how she is Queen.
Once we're back in the car I tell the girls how proud I am of them for being quiet and nice despite the other girl. We tell Brittany when we get home.
My wife smiles.
"That's the perfect response to bullies. I'm so glad they didn't feed the troll."
Socialization is not a problem in this preschool.
Filmmaker, Writer, Surrogate Father
P.S. On a much more difficult note, I'm not sure I'll ever figure out the proper social technique for dealing with the loss of life: My family mourns the loss of Baby Grace.
1For those of you not familiar with the xkcd web comic it often contains inappropriate content. This one is safe, but check out the other posts at your own risk.