Published 2006-11-29

For various wha-acky! reasons I’m tending the XIS kindergarten for an hour a day. This is actually a really easy gig: I'm basically babysitting. The hardest part of the job is getting them to clean up their toys in time for lunch.

Working with children has been the hardest part of this job, for me. The younger the kid, the more inexplicable s/he is. Teenagers are easy to understand, and (relatively) easy to communicate with. They’re basically little adults with jaw-droppingly awful judgement. But kindergarteners are like these demented dwarfs...they do bizarre random stuff and have bizarre random explanations for why they did it. For example: they suddenly acquired this mania for hugging my legs and standing really really close. WTF?

Also interesting: girls lead boys at all ages. (Warning: gross stereotypes follow.) I remember, around the time I hit puberty, hearing adults say, over and over, that girls develop faster than boys. I thought this meant girls start acting adulty and quit playing with toys at a younger age than boys. This is undeniably true. Sixth grade girls are clearly training at being women, sixth grade boys still play with pokemons or yodas or whatever. What I never realized is that this is true at every age.

Kindergarten girls switch effortlessly between Korean, Mandarin and English...they jabber all the time, about everything, and construct complex games that mimic the real world, with money exchanges, power hierarchies, and little bits of math or spelling. Games like “vegetable stand” or “kitty school” or “international banking”. They have these (to me) frustratingly cliquish games that involve social ordering, and play in big, well organized groups. A girl playing alone is playing alone for a reason and maybe not a good one.

Kindergarten boys play games like “piling up all the blocks” and “wearing a hat.” (I exaggerate. They also play “driving a car” and “watching television.”) They play alone or in little pairs, and when they get roped into the complex little-girl games they are clearly at a disadvantage. I feel a little sorry for kindergarten boys. Maybe this explains the hugging? Maybe, like dogs, tiny children can smell emotion and the boys realize that their developmental lag makes me a little sad, and they’re trying to comfort me.

I realize none of this is remotely new to anyone who’s spent any time at all around children (read: everyone but me.) But I remember none of this from my own kindergarten years. Maybe I was (like other boys?) too socially retarded to notice? (Hey Mom: little help here?) That’s the upside of a developmental lag, I guess: realizing you’re behind the girls is one of the skills you have not yet acquired.