Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Magnetism

When I dropped Pie off at day-care this morning, Maddy came up to give her a big hug. Maddy is around eighteen months old, one of several children Pie refers to dismissively as "the babies." In reaction to her greeting, Pie shrugged off her embrace and glared.

This is typical of my daughter's response to other human beings. She mostly doesn't like them and wishes they would leave her alone. There are a few exceptions to this rule: her immediate family, her grandmothers (though decidedly NOT her grandfathers), and all five-year-old girls, whom she worships and admires. The other exception is Claudia.

We met Claudia at Pie's Little Gym class. She is just Pie's height, but all chubby belly and crinkly eyes. She takes everything at a run, giggling irrepressibly. I have never met a more contagiously happy person. She radiates joy and no one can resist her, including the Pie. If Claudia jumps off a cliff (or a stack of gym mats), Pie will follow.

After dropping my antisocial daughter off at daycare, I moved on to Bub's nursery school, where he approached a group of children playing with blocks. "Hi, Bub!" a friendly girl greeted him as he brushed by.

"We're building a house for the aminals!" another boy explained jovially. No response.

Suddenly Bub's face lit up. "Look who came to play!" he announced ecstatically. "It's Robert! Let's go tap him on the shoulder!" Recalling his sessions on social communication with his speech therapist, Bub approached and tapped him on the shoulder, saying his name as he'd been taught. "Hi Robert!"

Unimpressed, Robert shrugged his shoulders. As he turned, I could see that his lip was swollen - a souvenir of his latest mischief, I suspect. (When his mother was telling stories about him at the last parent meeting, they tended to begin with comments like, "Have I told you the one about the chandelier?") Robert is not quite four, but he is undeniably cool. His dad is a firefighter and he has inherited his adventurous spirit. His is the only name that elicits anecdotes from Bub when I ask about his day. Robert wore a lion suit! Robert was funny.

It amazes me how easy they are to identify, the Roberts and Claudias - people with a powerful magnetism that can't help but reach everyone around them, even my own prickly, oblivious children.

28 comments:

slouching mom said...

Oh, yes. I know some Roberts and Claudias. Still, I wonder why there are relatively few of them among the preschool set. Is it because most kids don't grow into their personalities for some time? Could it be that there are incipient Roberts and Claudias waiting in the wings?

Piece of Work said...

My sister's son is one of these. He always has been. And it's very strange because he is only just now, at 12, beginning to realize it himself. Other children have always been drawn to him, and I always wonder why. He is very blonde and very tall and attractive in a way that a grown up could recognize. He is not particularly effusive or bubbly but he is athletic. He has always been somewhat oblivious to the social goings on around him. I wonder if it is the tallness, or the aloofness. Who knows. It's something I never had, that is for sure.

Anonymous said...

It has been my experience that the trait they all have in common is they are NICE. Nice in preschool, elementary, all the way up. Nice carries the day regardless of all else.

Think of the adults you know? Aren't the nice ones the BEST?!

Karianna said...

Yup. There was a Claudia in college (I mean, that was REALLY her name) and it was amazing how she was friends with absolutely everyone.

She didn't fit the stereotype physically of a "popular girl" but she had the personality to make her best friends with absolutely everyone, including the gorgeous hockey players who made me turn into mush.

Claudia realized that everyone was "just a person" so she wasn't starstruck by anyone, and yet she recognized the value in everyone, such that she made everyone seem like a star.

As I look back on the various cliques, the person most desired in the midst of the catty women was always an exceptionally genuine, nice person.

Hairline Fracture said...

I hope it doesn't sound like bragging to say my daughter is like Claudia. She never meets a stranger and all the kids in her class seem to love her. I think it's just her personality--although I've done my best to foster kindness, I don't take credit for the way she just naturally "gets" social interactions. My husband actually worries that she'll be teased for being "too nice." I told him that's not such a bad problem to have.

NotSoSage said...

The closest friend I've had in my adulthood is like this. He has not only the natural magnetism, but he has this ability to engage anyone - regardless of who they are - in such a way that they feel special. It's amazing to watch, really...and to model myself after him in every way I can.

Bea said...

I wonder if it's the introverts who are most dazzled by the Roberts/Claudias. You have all described them so perfectly - the genuine affection they seem to radiate, the effortless way they draw others in. Everyone likes them, but introverts ADORE them.

Rachel said...

My boyfriend is a 'Robert'. I have never met anyone who doesn't like him, he is lovely to everyone he meets and can talk to anyone about anything. He has helped me become a much nicer person.

nomotherearth said...

Mr Earth is the "funny" version of Robert, instead of the "nice" version. He can make people laugh hysterically at the mundane, and he can get away with murder because people just chuckle and say "Oh, that Mr Earth...!"

Swistle said...

I know it---we're all susceptible! It's why I don't trust people who are too charismatic/magnetic: I know how powerful the pull is.

Beck said...

My oldest child is an EXTREMELY reserved human being. EXTREMELY.
My middle child is like hanging out with a minor-and-thrilled celebrity. Everywhere we take him, people are like "Hey, it's The Boy!" and he has ALWAYS stopped and schmoozed with them. He has his grandfather's Look At Me! gene, you see.

Susanne said...

I have been puzzled for a while now that my son seems to be so popular in kindergarten. He definitely isn't cool though he wishes he were, but everywhere I go there are parents whose children want to organize a playdate with him.

I always thought he'd turn out like me and his father, not quite fitting in anywhere.

He's the nice sort I think. No magnetism just a quiet nicety. I'm happy for him but it feels a bit weird.

www.antiquemommy.com said...

It's true. You can pick out the prom queens and the boy who will be voted "Most Liked" early on. I don't think out-going-ness is a learned skill so much as I think God just makes'em that way. I love and appreciate those little Claudia's who pull the shyer (is that a word) kids like Sean into the fold. They make the world a better place.

Anonymous said...

One more: my kids are two years apart. There was a boy in between their age who they knew all through school. Mr. Everything to everybody. Recently graduated from a top-notch college, etc.

My kids used to say about him, "The best part of X is he doesn't know he is X." Humble and nice.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh yes, it's intriguing to watch. And I think that there is something to be said for people who are more introverted or who tend to prefer one quality friend being drawn to this type of person.

Merle said...

I'm not sure if the preschool aged Roberts and Claudias actually understand the effect that they have on others. They often tolerate the love of others and sometimes reciprocate it too. Occassionally, one other will become as important to claudia/robert as it is to the other. It seems that their magnetism lies more in their happiness and self-love/admiration. Others are simply drawn to him/her because the love/radiance/fun/happiness seems to pour out without ever drying up. It is not just shy children who fall in love but also the needy and/or abused children. Perhaps some magnetic people use this to thier own advantage but I think there are some who just truely are golden. And when you are near them, you just feel good too.

Jenifer said...

I could not agree more. There are a few people I know (both sexes) that the type of people who can talk to everyone and make them all feel special.

Nora Bee said...

Oh yes, the Roberts and Claudias. I hope they use their powers for good, never for evil.

Mimi said...

Charisma. You know it when you see it.

Aliki2006 said...

There are many Roberts and Claudias at L.'s school--they were so easy to identify, even as early as kindergarten. It's amazing...

Kelly said...

Absolutely. I love seeing who my Hannah latches onto, she being of the shier and more reserved nature. It's no wonder that sometimes it seems she admires the more outlandish and gregarious kids in her class.

Patois said...

I always wonder who the Roberts and the Claudias grow up to be.

Sus said...

Yes. A mother I know of one of the Claudias (actually, she's too young to be a Claudia yet, but her mother imagines her to be) one time wondered aloud in a would-be kind voice how my "quiet" kids could keep up with the "sassy" ones that day. Just yesterday, a lifelong friend said warmly to my AG: "Do you need a hug, Anna?" as only a toddler can ask. Anna gave him a definitive "no" and continued on her way. I am good friends with a genuine Claudia, however: it always amazes me how many people consider themselves close to her, and are right.

Jozet at Halushki said...

My middle daughter grew into being a Claudia.

My older daughter was a Claudia, but now is now more a waiter the wings.

I think that some kids are inherent Claudias and Roberts, and others go through seasons.

At any rate, it's all amazing and marvelous to watch.

Linda - Nickers and Ink said...

Cute post!

I remember those days . . .

;-)

susiej said...

Nice... nice people, nice to talk to... all through school and life, and ones you want to chat with at parties. What a great observation.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Not to contradict the wisdom of everyone who reads your blog... but the 6-year-old I know who all the kids admire & want to befriend is a monster. Really. Me and the other mothers are always coming up with excuses not to invite that kid to playdates. He is magnetic like you describe but he's mean. I keep waiting for my son to punch him in the nose, but instead my son's been declaring that kid to be his best friend!

TEOM said...

I made a practice of telling my kids that it never is a good idea to be too popular in elementary, middle or high school because for the Roberts and the Claudias, it is all downhill from there. Never thought to include daycare and preschool, though.