Making friends is supposed to be easy when you’re a kid, right? Aren’t they hot-wired to just hang out and play, and then boom! You’re friends!
Well, apparently not in my house. Maybe I’ve made things way too cozy at home so no one really wants to leave it. Maybe my so called mom loving is just too seductive, too compelling, too…dare I say, safe. For some reason, after raising 6 kids for the past ten years, I’m only now confronting this question. The results are not pretty, as I try to get the youngest, Leopold, into some social situations so he can make some friends. And he’s not biting.
Our move to suburbia has made this glaringly obvious. And based on my first stab at getting him out there, it’s looking a whole lot like his lack of friends means a whole lot more to me than to him. He’s fine. But if I have anything to do with it, my anxiety will become his.
Ooops. This may go down as an epic fail.
First of all, my disclaimer: I had no idea just how much I was keeping my kids from building healthy relationships until now. I promise this was not intentional. But one side effect of keeping this blog, is I’ve become more self-reflective. And the truth is, I think I may have to admit that having other kids over to play in our previous (very small) house was just not part of the program. When you’ve got just barely enough room for the brood you have, adding more kids that aren’t yours is just never an option. It gave me hives to even think about having one child sleepover. Besides, other people’s kids bugged me. So I don’t know if it was lack of interest on their part, or I just subtly dissuaded any real connections.
Now that we have so much physical room, I’m discovering I also have the psychic room to invite more people into our family space. Of course, I get that I’m pretty late to the game, but better late than never, right?. So both Pippin and I are trying to recover lost time by drilling it into all of the kids—especially Leopold. But as per my usual, I over correct when I get my big ideas, so I’m probably not helping the situation. Friendship is not exactly something you can gerry-rig.
Look Leopold! There’s a little boy across the street. Go and say hi!
Let’s go to skate and play! How many friends do you think you’ll make today?
I signed you up for a million gymnastics classes! Have you met anyone yet? When are they coming over?
His reactions have gone from:
I’m going to make 11 friends to I’m really nervous to I’m not going to meet anyone.
But here’s the deal: maybe I’m trying too hard. Maybe in my zeal to make up for my “mistakes” and lost time, I forgot to have patience and faith that things are better when you get out of the way and just be.
So here’s what happened today. Despite my objections, Pippin went ahead and bought a small arsenal of Nerf guns—something he’s been calling “an investment”. And now I see why. Our kids spent the afternoon outside on the lawn on a rare Pacific Northwest day of sunshine, blasting each other. Before long, other kids from the neighborhood showed up, armed with their own weapons, looking to officially welcome our family the way that kids do.
Sometimes the best thing a So-Called Mom can do is to take herself out of the equation. It’s hard because we know our kids so well—but this can also be the very thing that holds them back. I know you all so well, that I impose what I think onto you and make you second guess yourself. It’s hard to admit that maybe, with all our best lovin’, we actually can make things worse.