For a few months now, M has been preoccupied with two things on her preschool days: 1) how she looks and 2) whether her “best” friend is going to be there. Her “best” friend (let’s call her Besty) only attends two of the four days that M goes to school. And I’ve noticed that it is more important to M how she looks or what she wears on the Besty days. This may be because right now her classroom is very boy heavy, and M and Besty are the only two girls over the age of 4 in her section. So I wonder if this is just where M finds some common ground in a way that she can’t with the boys, who look at her like she has three heads when she announces a new pair of pink, sparkly sneakers.
But I think there’s slightly more to it than that. It seems as though M’s using her appearance as a means to acceptance. There have been tears occasionally if certain outfits (always the pink ones, of course) of M’s are not clean on a Besty day. M usually asks me if she looks beautiful after she gets dressed. She came home wailing when another girl (not Besty) told her that she was ugly. I have to admit that I did not expect to enter this kind of territory so early. And after reading this article about how some teens are turning to the Internet to ask for public opinion about whether they are ugly, I can’t help but be at least mildly concerned that we, as a society, still place way too much importance on looks, especially for girls. I’m not entirely sure where it’s coming from since we’ve kept her from media that makes these suggestions, and I am certainly no fashion dynasty. But somehow it has creeped in.
Perhaps it’s just been my own experience, but I do seem to notice adults referencing how little girls look more so than they do with boys. I know I have to make a conscious effort to give alternative types of compliments, like if she tells a funny joke or asks an interesting question while we’re reading a book. But then other times, well, sometimes she and other kids just are really cute or pretty or handsome. Like when her blue eyes are just really stunning in certain light. How can I not say that, or expect others not to? Tightrope conundrum.
The funny thing is, Besty does not seem to be a girl all that concerned about fashion or it being a benchmark for friendship or acceptance. In fact, she’s just a down to earth and outgoing young girl. I think the attraction for M is that Besty has personality traits that M is struggling to bring out in herself and finds confidence in being around her. But M attaches herself to Besty like velcro, and I have heard tales of woe on days where Besty just wants to play with someone else for a bit. I try to explain to M that sometimes people just need a break or want to try new things with other people, and that’s OK. But for a young girl who clearly idolizes Besty, I’m not sure that that’s any good advice.
The school is doing a good job of teaching all of the kids that there’s no “best” friends and that they can all be friends and play with many kids. They’ve had to resort to this because there were a couple little mini-cliques forming, and it was creating problems on days where one kid’s “best” friend was absent or when kids (including M—I never said she was a saint) were excluding other kids from playing something because they were not one of the “best” friends. While on some level I think it’s unfair to require mandatory friendships (as opposed to learning how to coexist peacefully) because sometimes Billy would rather not play with Johnny in the water table because he just doesn’t click with him, in a class of ten very young students, their “no besties” approach is probably the only way to keep the peace and not let certain kids become marginalized. So, we talked to M about why it’s not nice to exclude people, that there’s usually always a way to include an additional person to play, and used examples of how it feels to be rejected from her own classroom dramas that she tells us about. From what we’ve heard from her teachers, our talk with her worked and M’s already making strides and has helped to bridge gaps between various groups in the classroom and making sure everyone is included.
Needless to say I think M is ready for the pitfalls of high school. Or the United Nations.
I guess it is the looks part of it all that has me the most preoccupied. I am not sure at what age, if ever, kids really understand that it is not what is on the outside that makes someone worthy of friendship, but I suspect it’s much later than what I’d like it to be. And while I want her to feel like she fits in, I don’t think buying 500 sparkly pink shirts and skirts is the answer because that cuts against the grain of some other core family values we have. I just have to keep telling myself that it’s just preschool, and that as she goes on through the years she will have more opportunities to develop more friendships that are based on cultivated relationships with a wider variety of people, no matter what she’s wearing.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Kristen M. Ploetz. All rights reserved.
Today we marked the wall to record how tall M is on her 4th birthday.
40 and 3/8 inches.
It’s deceiving, really, to think that she’s only grown just over 3 inches since her third birthday. When I think back over the past year and recall all that she has learned, heard, seen and felt, I know she’s grown so much more.
There are so many examples to choose from, but one of my favorites is the appreciation that I think she now has for what neighbors do for each other and what community means. She knows that it involves an unconditional give and take, one that has prevented our garden from wilting or trash cans from blowing down the street when we’ve been away on vacation. It’s meant receiving a surprise batch of chocolate chip cookies and exchanges of too abundant vegetables. And, in turn, we’ve taken care of some neighbors’ plants and checked their sump pumps when they’re out of town. Though M seems to like having a “job” to do, as evidenced by her constantly reminding us that we need to go check L & J’s basement when she wakes up at the crack of dawn, I think what she really likes is the adventure of going down into their mysterious basement. Perhaps the best gig though, was when we were asked to feed our other neighbors’ cat because that meant some much anticipated free access to her little friends’ pairs of princess shoes. Who knew that preschooler shoe heaven was just a stone’s throw away.
Of course it also meant, unfortunately, that she has had to experience a low, lonely feeling since these same cherished neighborhood pals (and their shoes) have moved on to another place. I’m sure she misses “the girls” way more than the shoes. The gift of two pairs of princess shoes from these beloved pals at M’s birthday party this past weekend seemed to soften the blow, at least a little bit…though I think she’s still reeling from their move as she’s discovering it’s just not much fun to have such shoes if there is no one else to dance around with you.
But despite the moving of her pals, she also seems to understand her value among all the remaining neighbors, despite being the youngest one in the bunch. Whether it be a quick visit from our next door neighbor who wants to see what color I’m painting M’s toes (pink, of course) or being included among the neighborhood grumbling and camaraderie during this year’s blizzards and last week’s power outage, she is given a sense of importance. Her affection for cats is well-known, and so she was treated to a sneak peek of two neighborhood kittens as they arrived home. With these neighbors being three doors down, they could have easily just gone inside unnoticed, yet they didn’t and instead went out of their way to show M their fuzzy new additions.
She now waves to people first and they wave back to her. She knows all of the neighborhood cats, and dutifully scares them away if they’re getting too close to the bird feeders. She knows the rhythms and sounds of our neighborhood, from E’s loud truck and the sirens from the hospital ambulances, to the distant laughter of some older neighborhood kids and that B must almost be finished siding his garage since we don’t hear the “‘struction” too much anymore. She prances around in the yard in her latest tulle fashions–currently, fairy wings, wand and headband–hoping that someone will stop and say hello. She enjoys the post-dinner bike rides around the block with Daddy, hoping that someone might still be outside to see her mad skills.
She knows that there is a little old lady, easily 100 years old, who sits at the back of the elder services van that drops off our elderly neighbor each afternoon right after M comes home from preschool. And that that same woman always looks for M in the front door window or in the driveway, hoping for a wave. M makes her smile every time. Although it’s fleeting, they make a connection, on the street, in our neighborhood.
I think she knows that we plan to be here a while, that this neighborhood is just as much her home as this house is. I suppose each year the circle beyond our house will grow wider and wider, with next year taking her to meet more new faces further down the road. But for M I think this past year in particular has been about solidifying her sense of place and coming to understand how a community works, something that could not really be appreciated until reaching this age. That, like all neighborhoods, we have our cast of characters, from the ones we only see on trash day to the ones who are forever working on their yards, cars or gardens, from the guy with the loud truck to the lady who hardly ever says hello. But that we all have our place here, even the shortest folks among us.
Happy Birthday, M. Four looks great on you.
Copyright (c) 2011-2012 by Kristen M. Ploetz. All rights reserved.
Despite many good intentions, it’s been a while since I’ve last posted anything. I suppose there are several reasons: a few short summer getaways, leaving a job, finding my new “at home more” rhythm, trying to start my own business (an unexpectedly s-l-o-w process), and, of course, getting lost in some summer reading too many late nights.
But most recently, it’s been because I had to turn my attention to someone else that simply just needed more of my time. In a perfect world, the distractions between April and August would have been centered in my garden, with me cursing idly picking away at the weeds and nurturing tiny seedlings that are prone to dry soil and sharp beaks. And while I certainly did get to spend some time out in the dirt–as evidenced by the sea of ripening tomatoes in my kitchen–my time over the past few months has instead been spent helping M grow into young girlhood and the ups and downs that come with it.
Who knew that at just 41 inches tall that she’d be tackling so many social and developmental milestones at once? In the span of just four months, M has gone from taking baths to showers. Moved from a toddler bed to big bed. Supervised treks up our steep stairs are now solo adventures to her bedroom without us in tow (good riddance gate at the bottom of the stairs!). She’s writing her name, give or take a few extra “d’s”. Granted, nothing truly Earth shattering there, but when you add in that her three best friends have moved away (two on our street and one at her preschool), that she has heard some not so nice words hurled her way at school by her buddies (standard preschooler fare like “you look ugly in that dress” and “I’m not going to be your best friend anymore”) and that M seems to be on the sensitive side of the spectrum*, it all manifests itself into a little bundle of worry, loneliness and sadness that sometimes needs a little more attention than usual. Indeed, my little flower has seemed a bit wilted of late.
It’s funny how many linear feet of parenting books are devoted to the many milestones that happen between birth and 2 years old: smiling, crawling, walking, talking, potty learning, eating solid foods and much, much more. And for that reason, it’s easy to see why you feel like you can coast for a bit after those things have been accomplished, save for the occasional tantrums that all 3 year olds have that make you feel like a neophyte again. But then you look down and see that there are some emotions and conflicts that your young child is working through that seem to come out of nowhere, even though in the back of your mind you knew they were coming and are just part of growing up.
On the one hand you want to stop everything else and give undivided attention to your droopy little flower, and throw in a few special treats or outings for good measure. And you do. You do those things because you don’t know what else to do and you want to her petals to perk up a bit.
But then you realize that too much fawning and attention can take away from opportunities for her to let her roots grow a little deeper, a little stronger, making her more self-reliant and self-assure. It’s the same with growing tomatoes. At a certain point in the growing season, if you keep watering every day, the plants never grow roots deep enough to handle dry spells or when you’re away on vacation. The plant doesn’t grow in a way that allows it to find water and nourishment deeper down in the soil. It relies on you and shallow watering in order to thrive. Those tomatoes are never quite as big either. But if you let the plant face a little adversity now and again–which is easy to do when you forget to turn the sprinkler on, like I am prone to do–then it can usually weather the thunderstorms and a few visits from a bandit skunk. Getting through the growing season also requires an abundance of patience and the ability to see that some minor mid-season setbacks are just temporary, and that there will still be a glorious bounty at the end.
These analogies are equally fitting for the parenting gazpacho du jour in our house.
It’s hard to say whether she’s antsy about her upcoming birthday, still figuring how to be at home with me more and less at preschool, or working through her friends moving away, but one way we can tell M is stressed is by the number of times she will need to use the potty before bed. Lately, it’s been averaging about 5 to 8 times over the course of the 20 minutes between lights out and eyes closed. Mind you, she’s been diaper free during the day since before 2 1/2, and started sleeping in underwear not too long after turning 3 (both her choice and under her directive, not ours). She has NEVER had an accident in either case, except for the one time she peed on me in the kitchen after we got home from her first day of no diapers at daycare–I quickly learned that a trip to the potty before heading home is always a good idea, despite the reassurances of the potty learning set. And it really isn’t a tactic to stay up — she’s never been that kid.
Notably, she’s recently learned that two of her friends either still sleep in pull-ups or have had an accident at school–and her first question in both cases was, “how old is so-and-so?”. As luck would have it, both are 4 years old. So the translation in little M’s mind is “oh, so that means that *I* might have an accident now too since I’m turning 4, so I better go to the bathroom every 5 minutes before I fall asleep just to make sure I don’t”. Dealing with this can only be described as an epic exercise in Zen patience, for me at least. As much as I want to yell “YOU JUST PEED 3 DROPS FIVE MINUTES AGO, YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO!!”, I don’t and just stand patiently and neutral because I know, eventually, it will subside. Indeed, she had a similar 3 week period before Halloween last year, apparently afraid of the holiday because the very next day, *poof* no more incessant trips to the bathroom. But given that she’s accepted that A, E and J have moved, and that her 4th birthday is only a few weeks away, better buy your stock in toilet paper now and sell, sell, sell! before September 6th because I’m hoping that she will soon see that turning 4 does not equate to uncontrolled peeing or a lifetime without friends.
So, as much as I want to keep her from feeling the feeling of being stressed out, left behind and lonely (and the zings of some grumpy preschool arrows) by taking her on outings out of view of her pals’ former house and doling out endless marshmallows, I know that instead I need to let her grow through these experiences. Distracting her and offering shallow nourishment is not the best solution, though we did indulge a little wallowing and milking it the first day or so. But to let her truly grow, I need to let her confront these uncomfortable feelings and talk about them, and share similar tales from my own childhood. It requires just me and her dad being truly present and undistracted when we’re with her. Going through this has been hard for her, but I think it’s working. She’s digging deep and sending out stronger roots so that she’s increasingly able to right herself amidst these late summer storms and those yet to come.
And so that’s where I’ve been this growing season.
* For many reasons that go beyond this post, I decided it was time to see if maybe M could be considered a “highly sensitive child” and how I could possibly tailor my responses in certain situations, so I very recently started reading The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them, by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. The author also has a website found here. I am still reading the book and forming my conclusions about whether this label applies to M (and I hope to have M’s dad read it too for consensus), but it does offer tips for how to handle certain kinds of scenarios for kids who fit into this mold. I am finding it to be very helpful and recommend it to parents whose children tend to (among other things) feel things a little more deeply, take things more personally, have a greater sense of empathy unusually earlier than their peers, have a profound sense of social justice, and are easily overwhelmed in noisy, crowded and very action packed scenarios, though I imagine there are plenty of nuggets that would help any child from time to time.
Copyright (c) 2011-2012 by Kristen M. Ploetz. All rights reserved.
I am not sure who originally coined the expression, but I first learned about the notion of “social currency” from a parenting advice column that I read daily on www.boston.com. Anyway, the idea is that, at least in the context of kids and fitting in among their peers, that there are certain things that allow kids to participate in conversations, feel like they are part of the group and, in a word, seem “cool”. The best examples would be watching popular TV shows, owning the latest gadgets or toys, or buying every conceivable piece of merchandise to show your allegiance to the icon or character of your choice.
The way I see it, parents are the “bank” that provide the means (the stuff or the money to acquire the stuff) to the end (fitting in), at least until a child is old enough to start making some truly discretionary purchases with self-earned money. For someone trying to live on the simpler and greener end of the spectrum, my natural tendency is toward “no stuff”. So I am generally not in favor of buying stuff that is all the rage for M’s contemporaries. I did not expect to have to confront this issue for at least another couple of years.
Enter Silly Bandz. The scene: M’s preschool. The cast: M and an older preschooler who M idolizes because is the very cool age of 4 1/2. The props: tiny, colorful and fun-shaped rings of medical grade silicone. The plot: M (thinks she) wants some.
I see these and I cringe. I immediately think of the images that I recently saw online in the exhibit entitled “Midway” by photographer Chris Jordan who took pictures of dead albatross chicks on the Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. These images were heartbreaking to say the least. As he states on his website, “not a single piece of plastic in any of these photographs was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way. These images depict the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world’s most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent.” Am I acting like Henny Penny or too alarmist? Perhaps. But look at these photographs and tell me that there is not some remote chance that someday silicone bracelets might not be considered interesting fare for a mama albatross to feed her young. They are also not unlike the plastic soda can rings that we all so dutifully cut into tiny pieces before throwing away so that sea turtles and the like wouldn’t get entangled.
Fear not. I am no Luddite–much of my reading is done electronically now and yes, I have a cell phone–but I truly and honestly have serious guilt, discomfort and usually mild remorse almost every time new stuff enters our home. Unless it is for the basics–food, shelter, clothing, health–it is hard for me to buy stuff that I know has likely had a dubious life before it entered my home (like environmental impacts and the use of nonrenewable resources to make the stuff, extraordinary shipping distances that require unnecessary amounts of fuel, inequitable labor practices, perhaps child labor) and an uncertain future when I am done with it (ideally recycling or reuse by someone else, but at some point, all or parts of the stuff are ultimately likely destined for a landfill–no matter which way you slice it, each of these comes with its own baggage of environmental impacts). For me, worrying about these kinds of things is the closest thing I can imagine to participating in a religion that has a defined set of principles and rules under which one is supposed to act. In fact, I suppose it is a religion for me. Reading books like The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard and Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell only makes matters worse…or clearer, depending on your perspective.
I am consistently amazed by the sheer number of stuff today that is marketed to and made appealing for kids. I honestly do not think it was quite as bad when I was growing up. At least I certainly don’t remember it that way. Perhaps it was the extraordinarily fewer number of children’s television stations, programs and commercials that were available when we were growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. We certainly did not have the internet as another media source either. Sure, there was the “it” toy of the moment–Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Ponies, Cabbage Patch Kids, Transformers, He-Man, just to name a few–but other than the toy itself, maybe a few items of clothing, and occasionally a special run of cereal, that was about it. Now–you can’t even go to the Bronx Zoo without seeing Dora the Explorer. (See another blogger’s take on this issue here.) I personally find most of it really disheartening. Soon enough, even buying groceries is going to be a challenge for parents trying to keep their kids away from the bombardment of commercial programming.
But back to the Bandz and my growing awareness that I am looking down the barrel of a very large and powerful gun called peer pressure. I am struggling big time. I am struggling to determine how best to teach our values to M in a way that does not ostracize her among her peers or diminish her self-esteem. If she’s not aware of it now, soon enough she will be: having certain “stuff” makes you fit in better. And at its base, that’s what childhood is all about–fitting in and finding your place, your individuality, among the social strata of your peers. Someday she might appreciate, or at least understand, the values that we are trying to teach her. But I don’t expect that to come for many years. So what to do in between?
Do we buy one package of Bandz? That seems to wholly contrary to my beliefs about these kinds of things (especially trendy, throwaway things). Hypothetically, if we were Jews who kept kosher, would we let her eat bacon? Of course not–yet, my impression is that when it’s religion, rather than lifestyle, that guides one’s decisions, it can’t be argued with or poo-pooed.
Do we buy none? At the age of 3, M has probably already forgotten about them, or still thinks that they are things that other kids just “have” rather than they are things that can be purchased. But the window on that ability to distract her or keep her largely uninformed is closing quickly I can sense it. Case in point: flip-flops. She now has a pair. She knows shoes are purchased in stores. She wanted a pair and after many nights of her coming in crying because she was the only one on the block that did not have a pair, I caved. It was not one of my finer moments. She still doesn’t know where the Bandz come from. I think I am safe, for now at least. But if she did know, buying none seems all at once harsh and unfair yet a teachable moment (I can’t stand that phrase) that lends itself to learning about we can’t always have what we want, some things we do in life have greater impacts than others and we have to choose which ones we can live with, and that things like trends come and go so it’s not always necessary to jump on the bandwagon.
I am well aware that this is not the last round of weighing M’s ability to feel comfortable in her own skin and among her friends against my own personal philosophies about what is truly necessary in life–philosophies that took me almost 30 years to master comfortably in the face of what others do and think. Fitting in is necessary, particularly for kids. I know this. But animal-shaped bracelets are not necessarily the right means to that end in my view. So for now, we will carry on without the currency of Silly Bandz in our house and await the next trend that we will have to negotiate and maneuver in the context of all of these issues. In the meantime, I remain hopeful that somewhere, someone is crafting the next kid craze with a larger, more sustainable worldview in mind.
Edited on 8/16/10 to add the following: Chris Jordan and his crew have recently started another website that documents what they are currently finding on the Midway Atoll with video footage. No words can adequately describe what he is witnessing. Please view for yourself, but note that the images are quite disturbing. www.midwayjournal.com.
Ever since M was born and she’s come to form bonds with other young children during her three short years, I’ve been thinking more and more of how one makes friends and maintains friendships over time. And why some friendships last, and some peter out over time (and trying to accept that that’s OK). And why some people have a lot of friends and some only have one or two. And why it sometimes seems so easy to make new friends yet other times it feels all awkward and clunky like you’re back in high school, even though that might even be more than half a lifetime ago. And why some friendships can be so deep that nothing goes unsaid, yet others seem only to scratch the surface. My guess is that social media sites like Facebook have changed the dynamics a bit too, with long lost friends suddenly reappearing in one’s life (for good or for bad) and a newfound daily dialogue where there was once largely comfortable silence, save for the random birth announcement or holiday greeting.
It’s been interesting to watch M form what can now probably be called true friendships. We’re lucky to live on a street where there are a few other girls (yes, they happen to all be girls, strangely enough) for M to pal around with. But two in particular, A and E (who are sisters), are M’s favorites by far–proximity in age is likely the reason why. M gets genuinely excited whenever she hears A or E outside playing and looks for her friends often from the window. It’s been fun to watch all of them start to grow up together and navigate touchy toddler/preschooler issues like taking turns or sharing or acceptable boundaries of personal space and simultaneously generate pure joy and giddiness over talking about things like poop and flip flops. M will get excited to try and remember to tell E something that happened earlier that day or show her something that she thinks is cool on the block. And A and E reciprocate these things in kind. I hope that they have many years of hanging out on the corner and sharing giggles and watermelon.
In many ways, seeing M form these friendships reminds me of my grade school years growing up in upstate New York. I had really neat friendships (until we moved to Massachusetts when I was in sixth grade) with my next door neighbor (A) and another close friend (L) who lived up the road. I was truly heartbroken that we had to leave those friends behind. Those were the ancient days of yore where the only hope of maintaining a friendship was by (gasp!) paper and pen, and even though there were some well-intentioned attempts at keeping things going, middle school life and geography ultimately got in the way. But a funny thing happened after I reluctantly (but now thankfully!) joined Facebook–I was able to reconnect with several elementary school friends, AND my old next door neighbor A!! How incredible! And wouldn’t you know that A and I still have things to chat about from time to time. Not just the fun things we remember about growing up in the 80s (the music, rollerskating, video games) but other bigger things, like our stances on religion in particular. We happen to have the same views on these things, so that makes it more awesome (at least from my perspective). But in many ways I don’t even know that it would have mattered how we turned out politically because the nucleus of the friendship seemed to come from a more organic place. I wonder whether M will have a similar experience as she and A and E eventually go their separate ways…(she may not know it yet, but eventually M WILL be moving out!)
I can see how it is easy to form friendships with people who literally grow up with and around you. They’re like family–even if you don’t like them one day, ultimately you love them for all that you have experienced together, the good, the bad and the not taking turns. And a separation of time and space doesn’t diminish or erase those kinds of friendships, so even if it takes 20+ years to reconnect, it still feels totally natural to be yourself when you do. Since M, at least at this point, tends to be more timid and not overly extroverted until she is comfortable in the presence of others, she takes a long time to warm up to anyone else before they might be considered a “friend”. It will be interesting to see how she forms new friendships in places like school or sports as she gets older. Maybe she will grow out of it, but at this point at least, she does not go out of her way to meet new people or approach groups of more than 2 kids.
And this is what made me wonder about my own friendships and how or why they formed. In all my life, I have not been one to have very many friends–I am happy with a close handful or so. But on the depth scale, I’d say that most of them have hovered around a 7 or 8, with 1 being “I’ll tell you my name and we can talk about the weather” and a 10 being “I have a very dark secret to tell you and no one else, not even my mom or husband knows but you” (I don’t, by the way). Why is that? Sometimes it gets me down when I see other folks who seem to have that one true best friend that is based on a very deep bond, and I don’t. Jealous perhaps. But overall I have generally been more of the introverted, solitary type over my life (by choice) so I wonder what it is that I think I am missing. Certainly I have family and a fortunately a husband that if needed, I could always turn to in moments of despair. But there is something about having a friend who you can share your most personal thoughts with and they really are there for you not because of blood or marital ties. Almost like a third party seal of approval that, yes, you are worthy of such things.
But as to how any friendship forms, I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of it really seems to be about time and place. If I scan the catalog of friends that I have now, it is certainly a healthy mix of “work friends”, “college/law school friends”, “friends that I met because of M” (preschool, neighborhood), and a few other categories. Some definitely were strong friendships in their own right, but often later strengthened by parallel experiences we both had in common throughout the years (getting married, having children, changing jobs). I suppose that it’s no big surprise that having things in common with someone leads to friendships, but there also needs to be a bit of personality alignment as well for it to work. We could both love reading about gardening or breaking down last night’s Patriots game, but if you’re a condescending jerk (or I am) chances are that one or both of us is not going to invest much time or effort in maintaining the friendship.
Except kids are different. They often seem really not to care about any of that, or at least get over it fairly quickly, because all they care about is being silly and who has the coolest toys out in the yard at the moment. I think adults need to be more like that (present company included). Why does it get harder to make friends over time as you get older? Why not just go knock on your neighbors’ doors and see if they want to share a brew or some veggies from your garden or catch up on whose quarterback rating is falling this week? Does it really matter that they might not have the same world view as you? No, it doesn’t (except if they’re bigots–that’s nonstarter for me). I have been trying to do more of this now that we are bona fide homeowners in a community. Yes, this is way outside of my comfort range given my own hang-ups and tendencies to gravitate toward people who are just like me, but it is the example that I am trying to set for M because sooner or later, and subconsciously or not, she will see how I make and maintain friendships and may use that as her guide. I want her to learn that it is OK to seek out friendships, even with people that are not your carbon copy, and not just wait for the right time and place for a new friendship to form. Life is too short to wait for that to happen and you might miss meeting someone really interesting.
To wit, as a result of what have been surprisingly minimal efforts, I have a nice handful of what I like to call “cuppa sugar friends” — you know, the ones that you can comfortably knock on their door in the middle of making cookies because you ran out of sugar (or, ahem, gas for the grill during a family BBQ). And they’re not just the parents of M’s little friends. They are other neighbors who don’t even have children (or least not young ones). Until about a year or so ago, I didn’t know that I lived a stone’s throw from a retired geologist who is now repairing antique clocks and goes birdwatching in his spare time, and who happily takes our extra zucchinis and cucumbers. Awesome! If it were not for M’s lead in getting outside to chat it up with the neighborhood gang, I would not have come out of my shell and into the community to make more friends myself.
Copyright (c) 2010-2014 Kristen M. Ploetz. All rights reserved. Personal theme was created in WordPress by Obox Themes.