Making friends is not always easy for people. I have 1 super shy kid, 1 hesitant kid and one super social kid (she’s having a friend sleepover at the moment). My oldest just went off to high school after being homeschooled for 5 years and he’s my really shy kid. He feels like a friend is someone you have gotten to know over time and have had over your house. Convincing him that the people he smiles at and talks to at events, social clubs, or classes are also his friends boggles his mind. “I have no friends!” he says. WHAT?? So last weekend we went off to Scholastic Bowl Competition. We had no idea no other parents went to these things. So we were there- waiting in the hallway for the round to end and we peeked in the window- Quinn was engaged and really into it. When the group broke up he was chatting with HUMANS and they were laughing and smiling and he saw us- pulled the typical- MY PARENTS ARE HERE and I’m EMBARASSED thing, nodded at us and moved down the hall chatting with his peers. “He has friends!” my husband exclaimed and I was like “Yeah he sure does.” And we chatted with him and he really didn’t think they were his friends. We had to explain that you meet people and you smile and you laugh and in high school or at work you are friends until you learn otherwise. If you jive with people that are friendly they are your friends. Mind you there are levels of friendship but for now I think he understands that he does indeed have friendly people he interacts with at school.
If you have trouble making friends I highly recommend the book,How to Make & Keep Friends. It’s a goofy book but it’s ideas and recommendations are good. It tells you to make eye contact and to say HELLO to people when you greet them. It sort of tells a person all the social norms we used to automatically know before we had a smart phone in our faces. Now for our oldest the smart phone has actually saved him on occasion. When nerves hit, he can sit at lunch and play a game, read an article or watch something. If you use it for a distraction or ways to cope I am okay with smart phones but I also wanted to always make sure Quinn knew how to cope with his anxiety. The first book we got on this was when he was in 5th grade and it was called What to Do When You Worry Too Much. It was a great book that went over why we worry and coping strategies about how to overcome worry and anxiety. This book has stuck with him and he remembers to look at it on occasion if he needs a boost. We also took him to therapy at the end of 5th grade to help him build a “coping toolbox” so that he would have all the resources he needed at his disposal. I think that anxiety might run in families or has some genetic links. I am anxious (way too much) and his Dad has had episodes of anxiety so we know we have to be vigilant. It can really weigh you down if you don’t manage it well enough.
So what do you do to ensure your kids are social enough and out there enough and doing enough? I think you need to understand their personalities. My middle child, Meghan, is the one who asked to go back to school this year. She’s in 7th grade (I recall it was a brutal year socially for me) and she is loving it. I was so fearful. Will she have friends, people to sit with at lunch? Does she have people to sit with at lunch? Let’s just say that those people are amazing and she is inviting her lunch table to our house next Saturday night for a Halloween party. It helped that we were very active in our local park district before she began school. It helps that she knew an 8th grader who is at the school now and knew 2 younger girls walking into 7th grade. But the rest is all Meghan. She helped build her lunch table up with people that she met randomly or people that just needed a place to sit. A majority of the kids that sit with her are not even in her classes. They are friends she made on her own. This boggles her older brother’s mind. How does Meghan do it? First off- Meghan doesn’t give a crap what anyone thinks of her (I kinda wish she did more so she’d comb her hair more often or be concerned about what she wears). Meghan could care less what the social norms are but what she is fiercely passionate about is fairness, equality and being nice. Those qualities have attracted others like herself to her lunch table and she is truly loving her new found social life at school.
Cole- is my youngest- and is having a decent time at school but still feels he is behind the 8-ball at finding friends. He’s made a great friend- who happens to be the son of one of the book club ladies- so it’s a bonus (nice mom, nice kid). He has interactions with other kids at school that he likes but so far just the one boy, Ben, has come to the house. I keep telling him that it’s one friend at a time that is important and that it will be so nice to have him in middle school. They could even walk together. Cole can walk to Ben’s house and they can meander to school together. It will be great and on bad weather days I can drive the boys (and Meghan). So life is good. It takes longer for some of us to establish friends but we are all capable.
I am a firm believer in having no more friends than fingers. I have many acquaintances but only a few friends. I can count on one hand my “lifers” the people that I have friended along the way who will be with me forever. My first one is my friend, Rachel, we met in Mommy group when our babies were just weeks old. She is my dear friend and we will always catch up via phone. She lives half way across the country now so we don’t see each other in person much but I think we are over-do for a girls’ weekend. The 2nd friend that I adore is my good friend, Julie- we let time pass as life has gotten busy- too busy as I didn’t even know she just had a baby (the last year we have let things lapse but NO MORE OF THAT!). She and I met when I was dating my husband and she and I just hit it off like nobody else I know. It’s always good to talk to her and to hear what she is up to. I have a few more and some amazing local gals that are my close friends as well. I am blessed to have a few girls I can count on but it’s not a huge gaggle of friends and I am okay with that.
I want friendships that can get ugly. I want friends who do not care if I showered or if my house is clean. I do not want to be judged. I’ll never forget a playdate back when the kids were little and I got judged for having pictures taped to the wall- “Your husband lets you do that? …and “WOW- you have a lot of stuff on your counters!” Well guess what ladies- I have 3 kids under age 3 and I am not going to stress about my walls or my counter tops. My house was not dirty but it was sure as heck not organized either. I only recently due to stress have cleaned up my act but it probably won’t last and my friends do not care. Those are my real friends. The friends that drop by with soup if you are sick, or call you and force you to go for a walk because they know you are down in the dumps, invite you over to have home-made scones or bring you chocolate or a muffin or a coffee just because. I sat with another good friend at McDonald’s the other day- yeah date night LOL- and we just sat and talked for hours. It’s not where you are, or what you do it’s who you are with and that is what real friends do. Heck I even went to Target with my good friend recently and it was just awesome. Desperate friends do that too LOL- so desperate to have friend time you do your household errands together.
So be sure to make a friend and if you just moved into town be sure to join something and smile at people. I made friends in Palatine, IL through Boy Scouts. My friends, are amazing and they are moms of some pretty amazing boys as well. I will keep my circle of friends small knowing that my friends are good enough to keep my heart full 365 days a year.