Luke doesn’t generally talk to adults that talk to him if he doesn't know them well. He barely talks to the ones that he does know. Adult acquaintances of ours, waiters, people at the checkout counter, or just general strangers offering a friendly “Hi” usually send Luke into his alter ego NipNip the Snail. Their questions or compliments are met with squeals, grunts and growls. I find myself assuring them that he can talk like a normal boy.
So when we were at the toy store the other day and he willingly answered every one of the questions asked by the woman checking us out, even to the point of holding a casual if very brief conversation with her, I was stunned. What did she have that others didn’t? What was she doing right to get Luke to come out of his NipNip the Snail shell?
As we walked to the door but before we got out of the store, he said, “I hate people like that.”
Before I had a chance to admonish him, he clarified with, “I don’t hate them, I just hate it when they act like that.”
I was taken aback, since not 30 seconds earlier he was holding what seemed like a very lovely conversation with this woman. “Act like what?” I asked him as we walked across the parking lot to the car and I felt like we could talk about this woman without hurting her feelings.
“You know, all ….” then he plastered the biggest, widest, cheesiest smile I’d ever seen across his face, tilted his head, and crossed his eyes just a bit. It was a 5-year old’s way of expressing that the woman was just a bit too eager to please, a touch over the top.
“I thought she was very nice. How would you want her to act?”
“Like the other one. At the book store.” Oh. Like the guy that had checked us out earlier that was cool and aloof with just the right balance of interest and detachment and that paid no direct attention to Luke.
So what I mistook for Luke coming out of his shell and enjoying a conversation with an adult actually turned out to be him humoring her. I guess that’s still progress. I guess that shows some empathy in him, that he picked up on her need to communicate with him and he obliged. And he almost made it out of earshot before he started ridiculing her. We’ll have to work on that one.
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