When You Meet Someone You Say Hello . . .

A drummer came to my children’s school several years ago, and all of the students experienced the joys of a drum circle.  The rhythm that we all remember is “when you meet someone you say hello – dada dada da.”  Except how do I know if I shake your hand, hug you, kiss your right cheek, kiss your left cheek, ask about your Mama and them, or just ask how are you?

After living here eighteen years, I still don’t always navigate the social conventions with the aplomb of a born and bred Vancouverite.  When we first immigrated to Canada, the cultural specificity of greetings found me in an awkward phone moment.  I met a friendly person on the street, so happy to chat it up, exchange phone numbers.  Except when he called and found out I was doing something with Craig, my husband, he got off the phone immediately.  Clearly I had not learned the social script of a proper greeting in Vancouver, and my Southern greeting was too friendly. Nuances of greeting have often led to amusing situations.  I have friends whose cultures greet with kisses to different cheeks, and at times which culture kisses which cheek evades me. Now I try to convey my delight at the person and then follow what seems to be their greeting norm.  That does not pan out well always either.

So Craig recognizing this has been practicing basic greetings with Mica who out of necessity has made a few forays into the broader world, and we will begin to make more.  I was amused, but then I saw the benefit.  I told him he is OGifying public space actions.  (Orton-Gillingham Therapeutic Tutoring breaks down the reading and writing process into manageable parts for someone struggling with language tasks.)  He schooled me in my new vocabulary word for the week – social scripting.  Last year he heard an anthropologist on CBC talking about “social scripting” among the Inuit, and it had left an impression.  (Pretty sure the interview was with Dr. Wachowich; we plan to get her books from the library, but I don’t know more to tell you yet.)

Well, over the  last few days their play has clicked.  My name is _______.  How are you?  Nice to meet you and put your hand out to shake.

Caleb forgot his runners on Sports Day, so we went to drop them off.  We saw many of my friends and coworkers, and they kindly let Mica practice the social greeting with them.  Maybe by the time the 10th person waited patiently with his hand extended, Mica gingerly offered hers.  Well when we got home she was tired, and I was trying to quickly prep lunch, so we could cuddle and nap.  She just wanted to cuddle; knowing I was soon available, I let her wait.  Smart girl.  She went to the deck; knocked on the backdoor, and when she came in greeted me with a huge hug and “nice to meet you.”  She got her cuddles every 2 seconds, and I could cut veggies while she was going and coming.

A friend used our home as a pit stop for the Southhill Festival on Saturday, and Mica made eye contact, another practiced social activity.  After my friend stepped outside, Mica whispered, “Nice to meet you!”  That night Mikayla was playing with Mica in the mirror, and asked, “Who is that?”  Mica looked at her and said, “Love Mica O’Bwien.”  First time she said her full name to us.  We were moved; she was proud.

Sunday Mica took her sister to basketball provincial game, and Mica gave her hand quickly to a friend she met.  After greeting people, she seemed quite self-satisfied.

Social scripts:

What else do we need to break down into manageable parts, so that Mica can confidently engage?


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