I am in a funk. I just returned from Family Camp in Lake Tahoe (my happy place) and it was fabulous. No cooking, dishes, driving, whining, or TV. Just happy kids and happy parents and lots of time in nature. What’s hardest for me when I return home, is the isolation: The kids and I, at home, all day, with no one else. No one else to dine with, play with, talk with, reflect with. I miss it.
Humans are social creatures. We are meant to live in communities. But for many of us, we have a stronger relationship with our neighbor’s garage door than with the people living inside. Two working parents, day care, shared custody, organized sports, TV and video games, driving instead of walking to school, all these make it harder to get to know our neighboring families than it was in the past. If you are like me and yearn for a strong support system around you and a community feeling, here are some things you can do.
Break out of your box.
I was never the outgoing social organizer so it was easy to come up with excuses like “I’m shy” or “I’m too busy” or “I’ll wait for them to initiate”. It can be hard to break outside of the roles we put ourselves in, but if you want it, you can create it. Great neighborhoods are created by people who put themselves out there and, occasionally, get rejected. Not everyone is going to be your people and that’s okay, but chances are, they are all hoping someone else will take the initiative. Organize a block party, have an open house, host Friday night happy hour on your front porch. Be open to experiencing yourself in a new way, you might surprise yourself.
The magic of multiage.
The way our schools are structured makes it easy to assume kids only want to want to play with other kids their same age. We forget about how wonderful it can be to have a group of kids of all ages, playing with no agenda or structure. The older ones play a little younger (so good for them in a world that encourages growing up so quickly) and the younger ones love the attention of the older kids. Self-organized play is more likely to take place as the older ones take on leadership roles. This environment of learning to adapt, adjust, create, solve problems, and innovate is such valuable, real world learning and what many kids today aren’t getting.
Leave judgment at the door.
When a new neighbor moved in with a truck full of hunting gear, I assumed I wouldn’t like them. When another neighbor hung a political sign I disagreed with, I decided not to bother trying to get to know them. I WAS TOTALLY WRONG. These are some of my favorite people now, but I judged so quickly I almost missed out. Be wary of snap judgments. When you are raising children, it creates a common bond that surpasses other, more minor, differences. If they live nearby and love their kids, it’s a relationship worth exploring.
When we feel lonely or isolated, it’s easy to believe that we are the only ones who feel this way. If this were true, I wouldn’t write a blog about it. Start up a weekly potluck dinner with friends whose partners work late or travel. Invite every Mom pushing a stroller to meet you at the park on Monday afternoons. Collect emails and phone numbers of everyone who lives near you. They are all waiting for YOU to do it.