Naughty and Nice GeoPolitics with a 4-Year-Old

Sunday evening I was sitting on the couch watching Elf with my soon-to-be step-daughter, Kuaile or Q, as she is called; I had my laptop and was scanning Facebook when I came across this post from my brother-in-law:

“So, Matt announced at dinner, way out loud, that people in Nigeria live in piles of garbage… And I thought that after undoing his new learned opinions on Iran we were safe for the world map activities at school..”

and this:

“Lots of Africa is a mess”. I am mortified. we’re shutting down the Aunt Maggie school of foreign relations. Maybe said school should just stick with country sizes and how far they are and leave geopolitical views out of it. I figure we have another 8-9 years until the mock UN class at school and at least 4-5 years before he’s reading the Economist.”

Oh shit! That’s me! That’s my nephew mortifying his parents in a crowded restaurant.

Let’s go back shall we?

My nephew, Matt, who you may have read about (here, here, here and here) is crazy-ass smart. Not like, oh he can write his name and read “cat, sat, rat”. Smart like he can read everything, knows where all the countries in the world are and has the basics of multiplication down and he’s FOUR (4).

The trouble began Sunday afternoon when my sister Katie said, “Matt, tell Aunt Maggie your favorite country.” I already knew his favorite country is Saudi Arabia because, duh all 4-year-olds love Saudi Arabia. Matt said he would give me a clue so he said, “it starts with an S.” Spain? “it ends with an A.” Somalia? Savannah? Katie at this point is mouthing “Saudi Arabia” at me and I tell her that I know, I’m playing with a 4-year-old. We finally get to Saudi Arabia and it is jolly good fun. Then he tells me is other two favorite countries are Iran and Iraq. Oh sheesh. I grimaced at Iran and said (using his new knowledge of the Naughty and Nice List) “Matt, why don’t you pick another favorite country other than Iran?”

“Why Aunt Maggie?”

“Well Iran is on the Naughty List.” Matt responds with a dramatic jolt of his body and huge eyes, good gawd the Naughty List!!!

We proceed into a discussion of which countries are on the Naughty List and which are on the Nice List. Why the kid won’t stick to Scandinavia and Europe, I have no idea. “Is China on the Naughty List?” Well, the Chinese government is on the Naughty List but the Chinese people are on the Nice List.  And so it goes for 20-30 minutes.

I decide to break up this discussion with a walk around the circle with the dog. It’s chilly out so we bundle him up and get walking. But I’m not in the clear yet. Mr. Adorable and I hold hands and walk the dog. And the discussion continues. The kid knows more countries than I do. What about Sudan? What about South Sudan? I didn’t even know there was a South Sudan but apparently it showed up in the past year or so. This is where we get to my brother-in-law’s favorite line, “Lots of Africa is a mess.” I did say that but not really to Matt. At that point, I  was thinking so hard about the role of governments and how they harm their own people and the needless wars around the globe and I said that, sort of to myself or so I thought.

Matt, what about Kenya or Tanzania? What if we start there for our visit to Africa? (We have moved on to where he wants to visit.) Nope, he wants to go to Nigeria. Once again, I think I can head him off at the pass and very stupidly say, “well you know lots of people in Nigeria live in garbage.” (Seriously, Lagos is a crime against humanity.) He used to be totally into garbage, maybe we can talk about garbage. But I forget that his aunt on his father’s side is married to an engineer who is working in Nigeria right now. (I realize she lives walled off from the nastiness of Lagos but I should have realized he was going to be really into Nigeria).

While we are talking about Africa, his parents drive by on the way to my house to pick him up. They stop the car and roll down the window, “Hi Matt!!!” He is decidedly not interested in talking to them which is not typical. They drive on and we keep talking.

I’m sinking. I cannot win with this kid.

“Hey Matt! You wanna go to New York?” No, it’s too far ‘up there’. He will go to Texas (where he lived for the first 3+ years of his life) and he will go to Florida. Australia and New Zealand are off the list because they are ‘too far down there’. He is more than happy to go to Chad. I asked, “Do you want to go to Steve?”

I have now twisted my average 47-year-old brain into knots trying to explain what governments are, the tragedy that has befallen many African countries, and the intricacies of international relations and the Middle East.

The kid beat me hands down. He mauled me. Thankfully, his parents are still talking to me. I suppose he has beaten the crap out them for years, so they have some sympathy for me.

Why couldn’t he have asked in the crowded restaurant, “Mom, is Steve a country?”

“Egypt is near Saudi Arabia and those pyramids she mentioned do sound interesting.”

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23 thoughts on “Naughty and Nice GeoPolitics with a 4-Year-Old

  1. La La says:

    Haha, gotta love kids and their minds. Watching them work something out and trying to explain things the right way to them is a lot of fun for me….especially when said kids belong to someone else!

    • Maggie O'C says:

      I have fun with some things like showing him chewed up food in my mouth but that talk took it out of me. I’ll be ready for him in December. We are talking about nothing but cartoons and sugarplums. Period.

  2. Molly says:

    Yeah, you went down. You went down hard. It’s ok, we’ve had many of those moments where we figure something out (too late) and then come back like, “yeah, you don’t scare me. I’m not afraid of you. BRING IT ON, SMALL PERSON.” And then he gets us again.

    • Maggie O'C says:

      Seriously, I’m scared of him now. We are talking Christmas cookie recipes and Curious George from now on. He made give things thought that I don’t think I have ever bothered with before in my whole life!

  3. artyelf says:

    Loved this! I suck at geography, this brain child would walk all over me ~ or perhaps not, because Oz ‘is too far down there’!!! 😯 What a lovely, gifted little kid, and so glad he is still able to let loose with the naughty/nice lists.

    You drew me in with your first few lines, you were watching Elf!!! Yay for Elf! A motto of mine:
    ‘We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup’.
    Really, they’re good words to live by 🙄

  4. peggy ward says:

    Maggie-
    love the story! dont knwo if you do this, but have you considered adding videos to your blogs? i would love to see Matt in action!

  5. El Guapo says:

    Don’t feel bad. No one knows what to make of that part of the world.

    Maybe with his early start on it, Matt will be able to figure out a peaceful solution that everyone can live with!

  6. Hahaha! You just described every interaction I have with my son. Argh. It’s exhausting and only serves to make me feel like a nincompoop. …nothing like getting whooped by a four year old. good times!

  7. The position of Secretary of State is open. Let’s toss Susan Rice down the road and get Matt the job! I bet HE knows the video didn’t do it!

  8. Hilarious! Loved his perception of New York being too far up there; you can tell him that Lake Oswego and Rouses Point differ by less than 1/2 degree of latitude. Despite that, you do have the better weather. Right now, I feel we are too far up here. Snow, cold, ice, wind-BRRRR!!

  9. Nic says:

    I feel like if I had someone to break down which countries were on the nice or naughty lists for me, I’d be so much more competent in discussing world politics at cocktail parties. I need you!!!

  10. Adam S says:

    Smart cookie! This reminds me of the things you hear about kids saying: “When I was big.”

    I think I need to *ahem* brush up on my Geography…

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