Ever found yourself gasping back tears of boredom as a small child recites a seemingly endless list of facts about triceratops, trucks or One Direction at you? You have? Allow Siân Bevan to ease your pain with her guide to How To Deal With Tiny Smart-Arses.
If you are reading this, I’m assuming you’re an adult. I’m defining an adult as someone who: a) pays bills (however sporadically), b) is no longer at school and c) looks back to when they were younger and wants to get a time machine to go in front of their playground self and yell something encouraging at them.
Personally, I would go for: “YOU WILL NEVER BE THIS GOOD AT SKIPPING AGAIN.”
Or possibly, “DON’T WORRY YOU ARE STILL ALLOWED SOFT TOYS AS A GROWN UP BUT THE PRICE IS THAT YOU REALISE DEATH IS INEVITABLE STOP DAYDREAMING SO MUCH.” I think it strikes a nice balance between comforting and encouraging.
Anyway, as an adult you are likely to encounter children at some point. Even if you actively avoid them, defriend pals at the merest whiff of pregnancy and live suspiciously far away from playgrounds, kids will have a way of making their way into your daily life.
I’m OK with this. I like interacting with children. And the great thing about being an adult interacting with kids, whether willingly or in an awkward supermarket queue situation, is that you get to be the one who knows the most. Some of those idiots can’t even count to 16. You, meanwhile, are a counting badass who once got the maths bit right on Countdown. It gives one a quiet confidence that no matter how bolshie the child, you can confidently name all the Bond films in chronological order and can probably explain gravity. Or gravy.
However, there are some subjects at which certain children excel and become tiny masterminds. Once fixated on a subject, they have the ability to memorise everything about it, filling their brain hard-drives full of models of cars, types of trees, dinosaurs or One Direction quotes. If you find yourself embroiled in a conversation where the child has deviously twisted things onto their home-turf subject, you have a few options.
This is the practical option that a lot of grown-ups take. The kid might get a glazed expression on his or her face and start listing information like a nostalgic old man reminiscing about a time before political correctness when he could grope his secretary. You may recognise these symptoms and decide to tune out, maybe to reminisce yourself about a time when you weren’t trapped in a conversation about different models of trucks. Although tempting, this is also super sad and you’re not only missing out on mountains of information, but you’re telling that child that he/she is boring. They will grow up to be the shitty, bitter person in the office and it is pretty much all your fault.
Try and out-information them
Or: lie. Just pretend you know more. Like, “Oh yeah, triceratops was pretty cool, but did you hear about a guantanamopod? New dinosaur, literally just found. No? Not heard of it? Shame, it’s pretty much the best dinosaur now; everyone’s talking about it.”
“The great thing about being an adult interacting with kids is that you get to be the one who knows the most. Some of those idiots can’t even count to 16.”
This has the advantage of making sure the kid has just enough damage to their self-esteem to enable them to grow up to be less of an arse. However, there are potentially dangerous outcomes. One is that they will go home, do some reading, realise you were wrong and then never trust again and end up breaking someone’s heart. The second is that they will assume you were right, tell someone about the guantanamopod and might be believed. Before you know it, your lie spreads and you just made an entire generation stupid.
This is actually the Nice Thing to do. Let them get it out of their system for a few minutes. They’ll soon burn out because their mum won’t let them drink Red Bull, and then you can turn the conversation to something more interesting.
THEN it’s your chance to drop in your awesome fact about geckos, and they’ll feel like you’re actually invested in having a conversation. They’ll be way more fun then and sometimes they’ll give you a sticker or a high five and you’ll feel like President of the Kid Charmer club. The main danger with this option is that you end up too much of a legend in their child eyes and they will seek you out to carry on this conversation for ever more.
However, this can happen with grown-ups, too. It’s the downside of you being so goddamn charming. So just do what you do if you were interacting with a rational adult and you didn’t have time to have a proper chat with them. You want them to feel valued, and don’t want to knock their confidence but need to set boundaries, right?
Just fake being asleep and then block them on Twitter. Child’s play.875 Views
Siân is a writer, performer, creator of joyful things and sometimes she tries to explain things to young people. She’s a mainly vegan feminist who loves elephants, is scared of the dark and likes stories most of all.