Monday, January 16, 2017

Are you smart?

At a family event last week I was sitting beside Pinkie Pie when an older relative asked her the question "So, are you smart?"

She was taken aback, and didn't know what to say.  All she got out was a "Uhhhhh...." and stared down at the table.

Normally I try to strike a balance between just putting up with awkward questions from adults towards kids and calling people out but this time I definitely felt I had to step in.  Adults would feel that such a question to another adult would be extremely rude or at the very least ridiculous and I am quite sure it is just the same when a kid is asked such a thing.  What can the kid possibly say?

I turned to Pinkie Pie and said "Well, that is a hard question to answer, isn't it?  Because if you say yes people will think you are bragging, and if you say no, they will think it is false modesty or that you have no self esteem.  No good answers, are there?"

Pinkie Pie nodded in agreement.

I followed up.  "What you did was just fine.  When you are asked a terribly awkward question sometimes all you can do is say Uhhhhh, and that is okay.  Sometimes though you can try to handle it with humour.  You could point your finger up in the air and shout comically 'I am the smartest person .... IN THE WORLD!' and see how that goes."

Pinkie Pie replied that I could manage to pull that off just fine, but that she was sure she could not.

I agreed.  Her position is difficult, especially being the only kid at a table of adults, even more so when the questioner is an older relative she doesn't know.  Figuring out how to respond with humour to deflect awkwardness is a tricky skill especially in those sorts of circumstances.  Fortunately for me I am quite comfortable acting the fool in front of others, but I certainly wasn't so comfortable at her age.

The older relative who made the comment heard all of this quite clearly.  I don't know what they made of it, but they did remark later that I had quite a rapport with Pinkie Pie, so I guess that they weren't too offended by me basically saying that their question was absurd.

I wonder why adults act like this towards children.  I tend to try to treat children like people - people that have limited skills and experience, certainly, but people nonetheless.  Tell them a funny story, ask them what they do for fun, or just discuss things that you find interesting and see what they have to add.  But quizzing them directly in ways that leave them no good answers and which you honestly don't want the answers to anyway?  It boggles my mind.

Pinkie Pie seemed happy with my response to the situation and not particularly fussed about the whole thing.  In the end it was a good teachable moment.  Whether or not she took the basic lesson about responding to awkward questions from higher status people or the advanced lesson of flipping the table to make the asker of an awkward question feel awkward themselves is unclear to me.

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