I am tortured by my youngest son’s need to be social. We have had a really hard time finding playmates for him. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because parents read my blog and are scared to let their kid hang out at our house. But mostly I think it’s that we live in Darlington, WI, so far away from everyone that we’re not convenient enough. I thought the farm would be a huge draw for kids, but a two-hour drive trumps kid fun for almost everyone.

I tell myself that it’s ok, because he sees kids when he goes to activities like dance class. And sometimes we meet other homeschool families in Madison for boy-time at a local gym.

But we were reading haikus before bed last night. We were reading Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys.

And my son said, “What’s a haiku anyway?”

I explained the syllables and then the boys stayed up an hour, writing their own haikus.

Like all good haiku writers, there was a constant theme for my son. Here are two he wrote:

Darlington school’s dumb.
But it is a lot of fun.
PB&J served.

Darlington school’s fun.
My friends are at the see-saw.
Then we go home. Bye!

This is a great example of writing therapy. You learn a lot from a kid by watching what he writes. I learned so much, in fact, that I’m scared that if we did art therapy, he’d draw pictures of me locking him in with a chain so he couldn’t go play with his friends at school.

16 replies
  1. MBL
    MBL says:

    Ah, the ole’ heartwarming/heartbreaking combo parenthood always seems to entail.
    I guess you just do the best you can (as deemed the ‘best’ on any particular day) and hold your breath. Given his social nature, you have to assume that is a core trait that will stay with him and is not likely to be one you can eff up by neither nurturing nor sharing it.

    The experiences that he/they/y’all are getting are essentially at odds with a full day of school that only allows for, at most, a solid hour of play time throughout the day. Plus, in WI for a third of the year much of that time is eaten up with donning and doffing winter gear!

    Maybe you can luck out and snag an overnight with the child of a non-blog-reading parent. Obviously, a homeschooled child would have a far more flexible schedule given that sleep overs aren’t limited to week ends.

    I say cultivate a thick skin, dabble in art therapy, and go from there. Or just stick with haiku therapy–the latest rage.

  2. Lindsay
    Lindsay says:

    This is off-topic, but I’ve been wondering for ages: How come you identify as a Myers-Briggs E, even though you don’t like being around people?

  3. Mark Kenski
    Mark Kenski says:

    Parent learns child’s heart.
    Writing, being together.
    Such fierce honesty!

    I’m an introvert. My parents are both introverts. 100% of my siblings are introverts, as have been (and are) my closest friends. My wife is an introvert, and my only son is too. I doubt very much whether I understand how an extroverted mind works. I wish I could offer some morsel of experience to help with an extrovert child.

    The internet is a tool that can be used for many purposes, one of those is connecting to others. My otherwise introverted son has an abundance–scores–of friends of all ages that he plays his online games with, from all over the world. When I got up at 2:30 this morning, he was online with friends, chatting and laughing. But he started with that when he was a bit older than your youngest son.

    Perhaps one of your readers knows a way to use the internet to connect with…I guess in this era it would be skype-pals instead of pen-pals? This looked interesting http://education.skype.com/projects/1399

  4. toastedtofu
    toastedtofu says:

    I grew up on a poultry farm in the middle of no where. I was about a 1/2 hour drive to people I could play with, which may as well be a million miles to a kid who can’t drive who has parents who hated driving (so different from your situation)I was also an only child. I WAS SO BORED. I was crushingly lonely all of the time. I was an avid reader, I read a book a day on the weekends. But that didn’t really help my social skills at school because I would often just read on the playground too. Not that I COULDN’T make friends, I was just busy with my imaginary friends. Eventually I made a friend who also loved to read, so we would call each other (even on school nights) and talk for hours about imaginary things. The above poster is probably right, Skype/video chat will be the new tool of distance friends.

    This did not help either of us socialize with other people. This might have more to do with early reading is bad than your socially deprived son.

    In the end I think your son is young and serious friendships from this point in his life rarely last very long anyways. I would only get worried if he starts becoming good friends with weirdos (like me) out of necessity, because that could influence the way he interacts with people.

    Then again, maybe it doesn’t matter at all.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thank you for telling your story. You remind me of my son. And you remind me that he was actually really lonely at school because the playground was so rough and tumble that he was terrified to be there. I think we both forgot about that.

      Penelope

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      what a great idea! and P wouldn’t have to organize it or anything. Someone else can do all the work and the house manager/everything else lady can help out with insurance issues and whatnot!

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        I would be happy to have other kids come for an extended farm stay. My kids are not really interested in girls. Sorry if that is not politically correct. But anyone who wants to bring their kids for a farm visit, email me.

        Penelope

        • Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot
          Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot says:

          I want to bring my kids for a farm visit, but way too far from Australia:) Love the examples of writing therapy.

          My daughter (7) is doing a lot of writing too. She says she wants to be a blogger and write about animals so people invite her on trips to the jungle:)

          I had an isolated and lonely childhood growing up in the countryside too but I’d take that any day over being a city kid who doesn’t get to enjoy, love and appreciate nature.

          It is so much better to grow up in the countryside and there are downsides to anything.

          My cat was my best friend when I was a kid (lol) and like you I don’t have a lot of friends but I do have friends and some very close, long term friends. I am also happy being by myself and that’s so much better than being one of those people who need to be round people all the time.

          I say bring on the art therapy, I think it will be full of love and natural beauty.

  5. karelys
    karelys says:

    Oh Lord! these are so heartbreaking!

    Mostly because I see the pull between I hate school, it’s dumb, it’s boring but it’s got good things I like (and need).

    I think art therapy is a good thing! even if chains are involved.

  6. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Your son is getting out and meeting up with other kids to do various activities. He’s getting in his social time.
    What he’s missing is the “school experience”. A place where he could share his likes and dislikes about teachers, class material, or whatever with his local friends. Friends that he would come into contact with on a regular basis and schedule and grow up with. Those kids in school share a common experience – good and bad – and your son feels left out. That’s how I interpret your son’s haiku … which I like by the way.

  7. Lori
    Lori says:

    If it helps at all, after a couple of years the kids at public school hardly ever get to play/socialize during the school day. At my small town’s school, one of my son’s friends told us they aren’t even allowed to talk to each other at lunch. They get 10 min of recess a day. No socializing at school — it all seems to happen during sports/after-school activities.

    He may be pining after his *idea* of what it would be to play with other kids at school rather than reality.

  8. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    Have the kids from school and/or their parents refused to meet for play? Just an hour after school can do wonders for the mood of a kid desperate for friends.

  9. lyy
    lyy says:

    Does Darlington have an after school childcare business? A daycare for school age children for the hour or two between the end of school and end of work. It could be a place to play, but supervised by an adult who shouldn’t let it get too rough.

  10. Meg
    Meg says:

    I have to agree with others who have pointed out that being alone in a crowd still feels lonely. Been there, done that, and so did my daughter, at dance, or other classes, or on the playground. Just because a kid is surrounded by other kids, doesn’t help too much, unless they have the opportunity and time to develop a friendship, and also happen to find a friend compatible with them, to develop one with.

    When I would falter during moments when my daughter pined for 5 best friends over all the time, and I could only find her a couple of runner-ups to get with weekly, or my son would complain of being lonely for a boy just like him (despite 4 hours a week of nice preschool, and hanging often with the two neighbor kids), I remembered how crushingly alone-in-a-crowd I felt in school, during those long dry spells between the few fleeting moments when I found a single friend to share one class with, til we went to different schools the next year.

    I remembered seeing my daughter in dance class, bonding with a really nice little girl, and they were really quite fond of each other, but the parents had no interest in trying to establish social ties on that alone, because she got her social needs met in Montessori.

    I realized, whether my kids went to school or not, they’d often be pining for someone like them, whenever it was they didn’t happen to have a best friend, which would be a lot of the time.

    And it is also true that schools are cracking down in some places, so hard on socializing, that it starts to resemble prisons where inmates may not fraternize, or even talk during meals.

    A lot of us recall with irony being told “School is not a place to socialize” despite the fact that it took up our whole lives except sleeping, and spilled over into our lives outside school with the massive homework burden (unless one just didn’t do homework, like me). But it makes me wonder how anyone can claim with a straight face, that school is important for socialization.

    We are pretty lucky to have a couple of neighbor kids they can play with, but I have to get busy and seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go find a rowdy unschooled boy for my son to be buds with.

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