A few weeks ago, as we were approaching the start of e-learning, I found myself second-guessing my parenting. Second-guessing our choice to keep our kiddos home, and had a swirl of anxiety around our decision.
It was hard to pinpoint “why” at first because of a mix of emotions. But I knew it had nothing It had nothing to do with their actual education. That part I knew we could figure out.
Instead, I found myself worrying about their social needs. Worrying about how they would do with friends. Not being on “teams” if we weren’t participating in sports. Worrying if they’d be “left out”, or feel different.
I wasn’t worried about school….I was worried about them not having friends.
It felt as though all I had heard over and over the past few months was how our kids “need to socialize“. How they “need to be with their friends”. That’s the message I heard over and over.
And while I don’t necessarily disagree with that thinking, it got me thinking about the weight we place on our kid’s friendships. On them “being liked” and fitting it. And that maybe we’ve placed too much emphasis on relationships outside our homes, instead of in them.
I knew that if I was being really honest, I could look back over the years and see that I didn’t always have that balance right. That maybe I put too much time and energy into my kid’s activities and sports and friends, instead of on family dinners and walks with their siblings. That too much time and energy was spent focused out and instead of in.
A few weeks ago I came across a podcast that perfectly put into words how I was feeling and immediately calmed my worried heart. It was an episode on the GOOP podcast where the psychologist and author, Gordon Neufeld, was interviewed, called “When Friends Matter Too Much“.
Without trying to quote Neufeld, (and hopefully not horribly paraphrasing his work). Here’s what I walked away with…
In our world today, as a society, we put so much emphasis on our children socializing. On having friends. On being on teams. On fitting in. Being part of a group.
Which isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself, until we put so much emphasis and weight on friends, that our kids begin to orbit around their peers.
When our kids begin to “orbit around their peers” at such a young age, their world view, self-worth, and sense of self are all shaped and influenced by peers who aren’t yet themselves capable of the job.
And that this has become such the “norm”, we don’t even recognize when it’s happening.
Neufeld goes into further detail in the podcast, and in his book, about how this happens and the effects it has on our kids today and our society, and what we can do about it.
But for the sake of my own personal experience – I got the message…It’s ok for my kids to orbit around us a little longer. In fact, it’s more than “ok”, it’s pretty special. And that my only job now is to do everything in my power to preserve that bond.
Later this fall JP and I are planning some time with the kids that will require a lot of “family time”. As we first started planning I was a little nervous about how the kids would react. How would they handle “just us” for so long? Espeically for Asher. There was a quiet worry in the back of my mind….“What sixth-grade boy wants to hang with his younger siblings and parents for that long?”
So last night I asked him.
We were out to dinner, just the two of us (which never happens), so I asked him all about friends and school and missing sports and especially about our plans for the fall. Unprompted he looked over me, told me how excited he is and how “he’s so thankful he has a mom and dad he can talk about anything”.
Me too, kid. Me too.
Feel free to orbit a little longer. There’s a whole universe waiting for you out there, but for now, feel free to stick around just a little longer.