Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bub and Geister

When my BFF and I married best friends and then had our sons six weeks apart, we embraced the clich├ęs. Hubby has always been a tad embarrassed by the best-friends-marrying-best-friends thing, but I figure if it’s good enough for Jane and Lizzy, it’s good enough for us. I only wish we all lived in the same neighbourhood, because Bub and Geister are a perfect match, their opposing personalities meshing optimally for harmonious interaction.

Bub is, of course, very much of two minds about the concept of social interaction. In a group setting, he will simply select a toy and then remain on the sidelines, rarely heading to the centre of the fray. His best socialization occurs in one-on-one environments where he becomes the sole target for a peer’s gregarious instincts. At day-care, for instance, he has Bossy Girl. Two months older than Bub, Bossy Girl views her peers as objects to be arranged. "You go here!" she commands, placing Bub inside the play tent. While often alarmed at this manoeuvre, he is surprisingly amenable to her arrangements, relieved, I think, by her willingness to take command of the interaction. Nevertheless, Bub and Bossy Girl are prone to fights over disputed toys – interacting with her is a lesson in self-defence.

Geister, on the other hand, is the Friendly Follower. His instincts are supremely social, and when he and Bub were thrown together yesterday afternoon, he initiated a prolonged wooing of his new friend. "This is my favourite toy!" he exclaimed, showing Bub a double-decker bus.

Bub fixed him with a steely glare. "No," he replied shortly.

Slightly confused, Geister pondered this reply a moment before insisting with renewed confidence, "Yes, it is my favourite!"

Even Bub is not impervious, though, to the appeal of a shared interest. The ice-breaker between the two boys turned out (not surprisingly) to be a book. Baby VanGogh is the book of choice for Bub right now, his constant companion and security blanket. No impulse of friendliness will be received more gratefully by him than a polite expression of interest in his book. Once Geister unlocked the key to that puzzle, the two boys settled down side by side to read. Geister politely allowed Bub to hold the book and turn the pages while the two of them took turns pointing out the colours, conversing amiably about yellow fields and starry blue skies.

"He never takes a leadership role," my friend observed of her son as we watched the boys chase one another through the back yard. That’s not precisely true: Geister is a finely tuned social instrument – he instinctively takes his cue from others in order to promote friendship and harmony. In Bub’s case, that means that he abides by the toddler property laws (do not touch thy neighbour’s favourite book), and transforms Bub’s independent play into a game. Bub runs to the back fence; Geister follows and initiates a football tackle when he catches up. Before long, both boys are shrieking and laughing, making eye contact and coordinating their motions to run side by side. It’s an awesomely complicated game, this building of friendship, one that Bub is learning piece by piece with the help of his adept three-year-old teacher.


*****

Bub isn’t the only one who’s a sucker for a shared interest. Gwen and I share several interests, among them the show Survivor. So when she managed to take a post about Survivor and turn it into a meditation on social justice, I was compelled to recognize it with a Just Post award. You can read the rest of this month’s Just Posts here and here.

justpostmar2007

21 comments:

DaniGirl said...

Wow, those are some amazing little boys to dance the friendship dance with such grace. Geister sounds like a great friend and companion - lucky Bub!

cinnamon gurl said...

Ok, off to check out the social justice post about Survivor but first, what is a BFF? I've seen it everywhere today and I can glean that it's something to do with a best friend but the second f is driving me nuts! What does it stand for?

Mad Hatter said...

Cin: forever

B&P: I heard a news story on the local CBC afternoon show last week about helping children understand what it might take to navigate social networking with autistic children. The story was not so interesting as this post that, once again, shows without telling.

Blog Antagonist said...

I have one of each kind of child, and it's interesting to watch the interplay with other kids their age. Both personalities have distinct advantages.

You're lucky to have such a close friend. My sister is truly my best friend, but she lives 900 miles away.

nomotherearth said...

This frienship thing is amazing to watch. The Boy is a bit too young yet, but I've seen some inklings of it with the son of one of my bff's, and his beloved older cousin Golden Girl.

Mommy-Like Days said...

Whaaat? Your husband is slightly embarrassed by the cliche? He has only himself to blame. . .
Tee hee! Fun post for me. I loved watching them play, too. I've just put a picture up on my blog.

Beck said...

Lovely post. Learning to navigate the social waters appropriately is such an ongoing thing for all kids.

Mouse said...

You paint the picture so beautifully. Scooter too has often been subject to the take-charge girl, but he's starting to play more as an equal with some of the other kids.

It's really an amazing skill for Geister to have at this age! It sounds like your friend is raising a great kid.

slouching mom said...

It moves me so when kids instinctively understand what other kids need, well before adults sometimes.

Ben had a friend with Asperger's, and when they were about five they were playing on the playground when Ben took J.'s hand. J.'s mother gasped as they walked off hand in hand and told me that J. had never held anyone's hand before. NEVER.

Of course I cried.

Alpha DogMa said...

That's so beautiful. I think they are lucky to have one another. BFF, the Next Generation.

Kyla said...

Josh and I married and then our best friends married a little more than a year ago. They are holding out on kiddos, though. Darn.

It sounds like Bub and Geister make an excellent duo!

Jenifer said...

That is so sweet! It is amazing how when left to their own devices they navigate the social dance much better than when we try to manage it for them.

Cinnamon gurl - BFF is Best Friend Forever.

Thanks for sending me over to Gwen, I rambled quite a bit about Survivor over there. Oh how I love Survivor!

Mimi said...

When I watch little kids socializing, I am on tenterhooks: never much of a socialiser myself, the whole process just terrifies me. But it sounds like Bub and Geister are working it out for themselves. And what a cute photo: Bub really has a soulful look about him.

flutter said...

oof. My heart.

Em said...

I love watching children navigating the world of friendships.... children are often taken aback by my Willow because she doesn't follow the "social rules" that other 4 year olds have come to expect... but even she is discovering the joys of friendship (slowly and surely)

Samantha said...

oh. i was scanning your blog and i was reading the books you like to read...... i LOVE operating instructions. It is such a good book isnt it? its so funny i actually laughed out loud while reading it.

Lawyer Mama said...

Awww. This is such a sweet post. And how wonderful that Bub is learning this friendship thing. It's so complicated when you think about it, so it's amazing to watch children figure out our social dances.

Her Bad Mother said...

It IS such a fascinating, heart-swelling thing to behold, the development of those first friendships. WonderBaby has her BFF in the Boy Wonder (he of Tania/Urban Mommy), and it's remarkable to watch the little lessons, the little moments of childish tenderness and childish peer-discipline. Friendship in the raw.

ewe are here said...

I find watching children learning to interact, each in their own way, fascinating. They are all so very different...

Geister sounds like a lovely friend for Bub. ;-)

mamatulip said...

Sometimes Julia comes home from school and talks about the kids she spends her mornings with, and it makes me want to be a fly on the wall there so I can see those relationships bud. It's so neat that your friend's son and Bub are such good playmates.

Catherine said...

I love Survivor! Its the only show I can stand to watch! :)