Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Search for Friends: Part 2

In May I wrote about the trouble we've been having in trying to find friends for the boys. Some things have worked out, some have not. Early Bird and Builder Boy spent every morning for a week at our church's Vacation Bible School. Early Bird came out of it with another friend; Builder Boy didn't. I asked Builder Boy about it, and he said that the other boys (there were so many kids that they were divided by grade and gender) were "stinking and annoying."  I asked him what he meant about that, and he did not like that they were "pushing and kicking and cutting [in line]" while he was the only one following the rules. On one hand I was proud of him for being discerning, and not following the crowd in bad behavior. On the other hand I was sad for my isolated son in whom I saw so much of my own, lonely childhood self.

I did not have many friends in elementary school. Or middle school. Or high school. In elementary school there was one kid here or there, who were nice to me for a little while, but never stuck around. A few touched my life sweetly, but everyone faded away. I suppose that is common for childhood friendships; yet I still hear people talk about a friend they've had since the early years, so surely it happens. Is it so wrong to hope for that for my children? Or at least that they have playmates for these younger years?

It came to me that perhaps I could look at how I finally gained some friends of my own, so see what I could learn and apply for my own child who stands out of the crowd. I am in my late twenty's, and I have only recently begun to feel like I had friends in the plural.

Diversify. That was my last bit of advice in my last searching for friendship post, and I think it's worth repeating. I had one friend for the majority of my adulthood until recently; she is only a year older than I am. I didn't know how to make friends with the older people I came into contact with, and I was stuck in a public school, segregated by age mentality. I also assumed that other people I encountered held that same mentality, and would have no interest or respect for a much younger friend. But I was able to become a part of a large group of friends with incredible diversity of age, race, religion, and geographical position. And we got together and became friends because we had something in common: we were all mothers. It didn't matter that some of us have babies and others have grand-babies; that some were near the beginning of the parenthood journey while some were empty nesters. We all had a very important common interest.

Another thing that makes our group possible is Social Networking. These friendships would not be possible without Facebook and honestly, if it wasn't for the internet it is very likely that I would still only have my one good friend. But I do have the internet and because of the confidence that these wonderful women's friendship has given me I have been able to reach out to even more people (yes, not just women! Diversifying!) that I have a common interest or experience with and have been able to grow even more connections. But it's not just about quantity; it's about quality. When I was just me looking around, I became part of an extremely large online community for a time. And while I learned a lot of useful information, it was never able to become personal. Until one day that community was going to go down for maintenance for a little while and a group wanted to get together on facebook while our usual community was down. They sent out an invitation to everyone and I mustered up my courage, defied my social anxiety and asked to be included. That group had grown and stretched and shrunk and changed until it is what it is today; a group of about 150 women or so who most of us have never met and probably never will; but I would let any of them babysit my kids in a heartbeat. (And if you know me, that's saying a lot.) They support each other through every single possible challenge that life has thrown at every one of us. They have organized sending meals to a hurt or sick friend through the mail; they have pulled together to make a remembrance for ones who have lost. They have sent flowers to hospitals, cards to homes, and one lady puts together boxes of random things that are intended to make a person smile and has sent one to almost every single one of us; unexpected, and unrequested. I say "they," but I should really say "we." Because they have taken me in, I have been honest with them, and they still care about me. They've seen me at angry, PTSD triggered times, depressed times, sick with my pregnancy times, and through it all have accepted, loved, and some have prayed. We all respect each other's different beliefs and we all are women together.

So how do I apply my experience to my children?

  1. Diversify: funny thing is, this isn't something I have to teach Builder Boy. He's already a natural at mixing with people several to many years older or younger than he is. I need to make sure that I am not giving him the idea that he should only, or even specifically, have friends who are his age.
  2. Find people with a common interest or experience: Builder Boy loves to build, and I am trying to find a retired carpenter to give him lessons. He has other interests, but that is his main passion. I have a lead on a possible mentor; we're just trying to connect at the same time. Neither of us are yet ready for the time investment of 4H, but that seems like a good place to look for a friend with a similar interest as Builder Boy.
  3. Social Networking: Builder Boy is 7. He's not going to be allowed on his own to talk to people on the internet anytime soon. But one of my online friends in Canada has two kids close to Builder Boy's age and they like to Skype from time to time. Mostly they're just silly with each other. Her kids taught my kids how to make silly faces by pulling on their skin. Something I had clearly failed to include in their homeschool education.
  4. Quality not Quantity: yet again, this is something that I need to make sure I'm not give the wrong idea to my kids. 
  5. You have to put yourself out there to make friends. I got lucky with my one friend after high school. I had known her slightly in high school; it was a big high school and she was a year ahead of me. But she was friendly with my mother-in-law, and we were both pregnant at the same time. She started bringing her baby to play with mine, we started scrabooking together, and she made the effort and the friendship happened. But I didn't put myself out there for years, and no other friends forced themselves on me. I had to take a risk and put myself out there, I had to ask to join the group, before I made any other friends. This is very hard for an expressive introvert with mild social anxiety. But for my kids sake, I am going to keep putting us out there. I am going to request playdates and park days and anything else I can think of until both my boys feel like they have the right amount of friends for them. And funny thing; in the search for friends for my boys, I made a friend of my own: one of the moms.

Check out more participating blogs and their posts on gifted friendships by clicking here. _____________________________________________________________________
Edited 8/1 This blog post was originally labeled as being for the SENG blog hop. I mixed up my blog hops; the SENG blog hop was about gifted parenting. The re-do post for SENG will be posted later today. Sorry about the confusion. This was supposed to be my contribution to the Hoagies Gifted Friendships Blog Hop.


  1. Great post Anya! You are right about putting yourself out there, it isn't always easy, but it is so worth it.

    I haven't yet signed up for that goodie box list... Some internal pull is holding me back, but I really should just do it. Dare me?

    1. I dare you, Sheryl! Mine was a Box of Sunshine and all things yellow and happy during one of my depression periods and it was so lovely! And the organic salted chocolate....oh my! I never thought I'd like salt and chocolate, but this was something I had never expected and now I really need to find out where I can get more! :)


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