The More People He Meets

My son Baxter has a rather unique personality. He is what his father and I think of as uber-social, and has been since birth. Baxter was the 18-month old who walked into day care with a big grin and greeted each other toddler by name and with a hug (which usually knocked them to the floor, one by one – there were those sensory issues coming into play!). He was the preschooler who didn’t just start playing in the sandbox at the park, he first went from unfamiliar child to unfamiliar child, greeting them with a big smile and a hello. My friends used to refer to him as “Mayor of the Playground”.

Recently, Matt and I had an odd realization: it occurred to us that we couldn’t think of a single person Baxter had ever disliked. No complaint about another child at school, no adult who wasn’t his cup of tea. In his book, it seemed, everyone was fantastic. In fact, to this day if you ask him how his day was, he invariably answers, “GREAT!” each time with completely earnest enthusiasm. My father told me last year that he loved this quality in Baxter so much he had started responding that way himself at work just to see how other people reacted. My mother said recently that Baxter’s attitude towards life is “refreshing”. I agree.

While I was making Christmas cookies with Baxter a few weeks ago, we had a lovely conversation, as we often do when we’re together. I brought up this question of whether he’d ever met someone he didn’t like. He thought about it, and agreed that we were right – he had not. “In fact,” he said, “the more people I meet, the more people I like!” This was followed by, “Hey, that should be my motto!” Delighted, I agreed. He was given the t-shirt shown in the photo above by my highly amused cousin in San Francisco, complete with his new motto printed on the front.

Last week we visited a childhood friend of mine who lives in Santa Cruz. Soon after we adults had settled ourselves at the beach side cafe with our coffee cups and gigantic muffins, Baxter headed into the sand with a Frisbee. About five minutes later, my friend asked, “So, what’s Baxter like?” I pointed over beyond the volleyball nets – “Well, did you read his t-shirt?” He said that he had, grinning. “And do you see him over there?” My friend turned and realized that Baxter had singlehandedly organized an impromptu game of Frisbee on the beach with a mixed group of kids and adults, within five minutes. He was happily taking pointers from someone’s dad about his throw. A while later the game switched to football and he was tackling unfamiliar children in the sand, children he would’ve knocked over 6 years ago had they been in day care together.

Thus it came as some surprise tonight at dinner when we were looking at Lyle’s map place mat and I idly asked, “Where do you boys think you’ll live someday?” (secretly hoping the answer would be “next door”). Baxter’s voice shook a bit with emotion as he replied, “Anywhere, as long as Adam P. doesn’t live there!”

Whoa.

It all spilled out. Adam P. (one must use last name initials at all times in second grade!) has been calling him names (primarily “Dexter”, which is just kind of lame, if you ask me) and generally being a little stinkpot to Baxter. Bax sat on my lap, curled up with long thin limbs that were unsure of where they fit anymore, and told us all about it. I think we handled it well enough, talking a lot about how he felt, why Adam P. might be doing that, and what Baxter does about it. A discussion about the power of ignoring ensued, and after a while he brightened up and it was clear that this load he’d been carrying had been lifted from his sturdy 7-year old shoulders. He even laughed when Lyle then climbed on my lap, saying, “And Mommy? The boys at preschool are saying rude things to me, too!” and then made up all kinds of crazy things that have definitely never happened. All for a little cuddle and attention. So we had a big family love-in on the couch for a while and then went on with our evening.

It had to happen sometime, didn’t it? I mean, someone had to get his attention with nasty behavior enough times to bring him to the point of dislike. It sounded like it had been going on for months, so I think he’s been quite tolerant about it for a while now.

In the end, I know that even the Mayor of the Playground is going to have a few enemies. But I have a feeling that’s not going to slow him down for long. I’m pretty sure of it.

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8 responses to “The More People He Meets

  1. Yes it did have to happen some time.
    Sounds like you all handled it really well!

  2. Baxter sounds like an amazing kid…give yourself a little pat on the back because while, yes, that has a lot to do with who he is and what he’s made of, it also has a lot to do with how he is guided and loved on a day to day basis. And for that, we would be remiss not to say three cheers for mom!!!

  3. Thanks, Kristen. Baxter is a really charismatic, bright and funny guy; I’m fascinated to see what he does with his life as he grows up. There was nothing like having that second child to make me realize how much is inborn temperament/personality. But thanks – I know that we parents do help shape who our kids become even though so much of it is in their genes. I mean, I think sometimes about how hard it would’ve been on Baxter to have parents who didn’t accept his quirky ways all along. 😉

  4. Special Needs Mama

    That’s incredible, all of it. I remember so well the delicate insults of second graders, and what they brought out in my kid (although she was never so gregarious and people loving as your “Dexter”). Can I come and kidnap your child to see what it’s like to have such an outgoing child in the house? Lovely.

  5. Vicki – Mainly it’s very LOUD to have such a gregarious kid in the house. Just ask my quieter, more introverted husband! 😉

  6. Wow, I sometimes wonder —if Nik were a talker would he be like that? The Mayor of the Playground…I love that! Baxter will go very far indeed with his charm, charisma, and tolerance for others.

  7. Emily, as some know me

    We don’t have a playground mayor in our house–more of a playground inspector type–but I can see why Baxter and TH were friends. TH is ALWAYS happy about things. How was school? Great! What do you think of this person who’s being tooty to you? He’s fine. The worst he ever says about anything is that it was “middle.” It’s kind of like those restaurants that have medium and large, but no small-size drinks.

    He never says anything ugly about anyone. That can’t come from listening to his mother, so I blame his father.

    Where in the world does a second grader pick up an epithet like “Dexter”? That’s kinda bizarre.

    Tell the “Mayor” we said hello.

  8. Lori at Spinning Yellow

    These kids are always keeping us on our toes. Just when you think you have one all figured out, something changes. I think you are right, it did have to happen, but you and he handled the whole thing so well.

    There’s a Little Bill episode where Little Bill (do you know this show, supposed to be Bill Cosby as a kid?) is being picked on and he comes home upset. His dad tells him to simply say, “So?” to the bully. Like, what you say doesn’t bother me. Anyway, it worked in the show.

    I agree that Baxter sounds like an amazing kid with one smart and understanding momma!

    Hey, love the new photos!

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