Monday, January 21, 2013

Mr. Friendly

Before having Elliot I couldn’t tell you the last time I struck up a conversation with a complete stranger at the grocery store or in a restaurant. It’s not that I’m not a friendly person; it’s just that I had no reason to engage some. And more importantly, I wasn’t doing anything to make them to want to engage me!

Boy did that all change. Something about having a baby invites all sorts of attention – and that’s fine, Lauren and I like it. We are proud of our little man. When Elliot was little, it was always nice to hear how cute someone thought he was, or maybe to catch the occasional grandchild story from an older couple. This was all well and good—it had a natural flow to it. 

However that changed once Elliot discovered the gift of communication. He makes it his personal goal to make his presence known wherever we go. His preferred method is to shout “hi” at the top of his lungs at every person he sees. 

What once was someone offering an occasional compliment has morphed into anyone within eyeshot of Elliot being immediately accosted by a shouting baby. Nothing is better than sitting in a restaurant when Elliot has turned all the way around in his high chair and is staring at the adjacent table, repeating the word “hi” over and over like a broken record until he is acknowledged. And don’t think Lauren and I are passengers in this … we have tried everything, bribing him with cookies, moving his chair to the “least interesting” seat at the table, stuffing a napkin in his mouth (I was joking about the last one … sort of).

As Elliot increases his vocabulary, the growing specificity of his shouts is what keeps me up at night. He’s recently learned to add the word “people” to his established salutation of “hi.” Now if we walk into a crowded restaurant or store, he starts with “hi, people.” It’s simple, to the point, and it covers everyone. Again, this is innocuous, but it has me worried what happens when he starts to notice the physical characteristics, clothing and ethnicity of people. What is now generally laughed off as cute could quickly turn awkward. I guess that’s where my parenting skills are going to come in. I will have to have the old “don’t be so darn friendly” talk sooner or later.

Having kids is awesome, but let’s be honest … it’s a white-knuckle ride 90% of the time.

Jordan Echols is a Communication & Image Zone Manager with Texas Health Resources and Dad to social butterfly Elliot. 

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