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There is a girl, APG, whom we see often at our neighborhood playground. She's 4 years old and she's popular like Paris Hilton (i.e. for no discernible reason). As soon as she enters the playground, the other kids call her name: "[APG]! [APG]!" APG ignores them and runs straight to the dangling swings, flops her little body over the black rubber hammock, and sways away while munching on her baggie of snacks.

She is — unofficially — Alpha Playground Girl. (When I say unofficially, I mean only in my head.)

As soon as Bean and Buddy see her, they run over and wave their hands in her little face, trying to steal her attention from one another and everyone else.


"Hi [APG]! Do you want to chase me?"
"Hi [APG]! Look, I have bubbles!"

Why are all the kids so drawn to her? I'm not exactly sure.

She's a sweet kid. When B and B first met APG, there were no other kids at the playground to influence their opinion; no other kids maniacally trying to grab her attention. But we came home that day and they talked about her for the rest of the afternoon. As if they were all best friends and they knew each other back in the day and could they have their cell phones now so they could text message her all night?

It's a weird phenomenon, the AK (Alpha Kid). Everyone knew an AK during childhood, right? Perhaps you were the AK. I've watched girls shyly introduce themselves to APG and ask her if she wants to play. I've seen other kids follow her around as if she were a messiah in size ten Mary Janes. I often wonder what makes APG, APG. She doesn't actively rally troops, nor is she bossy. She's not boisterous or loud or an attention-seeker. I watch her run around with her friends (fans?) chasing after her. She plays with everyone, but it's clear she's also fine doing her own thing. Is her laissez-faire, confident attitude what lures her little followers in? Do her kid pheromones emit traces of candy and peanut butter?

I told my SIL about APG a few weeks ago. My SIL immediately asked if APG is cute. Yes, adorable...very pretty, in fact. Intuitive-SIL then asked if APG has nice clothes. Yes to that too: APG has a sweet, vintage-y, deliberately original wardrobe. If she was 50 sizes larger I would want to borrow her clothes.

Bean and Buddy

Could it be...? Are my kids (and these other kids) that shallow? I've certainly never pointed out APG's cuteness or clothes to them. Are they that attuned to beauty and style? The thought had entered my mind, but honestly, I couldn't believe Bean and Buddy would recognize details such as clothing or facial symmetry. Because kids? When I let them dress themselves they pair black socks with sandals and want to wear purple snow jackets with red bathing suits. (Don't even get me started on accessories.) Also, they think bugs and small turds are cute.

Yes, I realize it's probably true but I'm still holding on to hope that it's not the case. Because that would mean my kids are 3 going on high school. On the other hand, they are only 3. I mean, they're not exactly deep. I know what they would do if I shook my finger and lectured that old adage — "beauty is only skin deep" — they would stare at me blankly for a few seconds, then ask for some milk.

So for now, I'll just continue to point out what I deem to be good qualities in others. I'll try and teach them the importance of following their hearts and not following the herd. And fortunately for us, APG is friendly, fun, and easygoing. As long as she isn't using her influence to lead my kids towards bad behavior, I don't care if she looks like Shirley Temple or Shrek: She and I will get along just fine.

Who are the AKs in your neighborhood? And do they have facial symmetry and a closet you want to raid?


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