The Race is NOT Given to the Swift…

After our three-day weekend, I sat down on Sunday night with our son’s school planner and a very simple plan: wake up early and get a full day’s school in before the older two leave for dance classes and I drive the youngest to her book club meeting at the library.   But I forgot some things.

I forgot that our license tag sticker on the car had expired as of yesterday, and if I did not get it renewed, the oldest and I would drive around on grace probably until Friday.

I forgot that the youngest had a pair of new glasses that failed to arrive before Easter, and so they would surely call this morning for her to be fitted, and of course, I could not wait until this evening because of the book club meeting.

So, after another night of broken rest, I got up at the last minute to drop the oldest off at college and then get the new sticker.   Our son’s job was to get breakfast (cereal) for himself and the youngest and get their school day started.    I LOVE that the kids are old enough now to delegate tasks.

On the way to college, the oldest and I talk about her gum infection, which has kept her from eating for almost a week and still is not completely healed.    We agree that I need to consult with the orthodontist about extending her prescription.

Sure enough, as I am driving to get the sticker, the eye doctor calls; I speak with him briefly, then call our son to tell him that plans have changed.   Tell the youngest to get dressed, and I will swing by the house to pick her up and get to the eye doctor.

As we leave the eye doctor, it hits me that I wanted to buy some roti to carry our son and I through the week with Dad away, but the vendor operates on a cash-only basis, so we have to trek by the bank, which brings me to the next thing I forgot: it is the first of the month.  Grrr…

I spend a minute (literally 45, to be exact) with the younger two at home before jumping in the car to get the oldest from college.   In route, I speak with the orthodontist, who adds a pharmacy trip to the day.   On the way home, cash in hand, the oldest and I get to the roti shop.    I also forgot how many people, including the local schools, take a vacation on the Monday after Easter.   No roti today.

By the time I get home, I am whipped, and it is barely noon.

This glimpse into the morning’s first few hours is a small microcosm of what has been happening in my life for the past few days and weeks.   There is enough going on for me to become quite frustrated.  Yet the Lord continues to show His grace and mercy, and a number of calming thoughts have come in waves to give me peace that passes human understanding.  I don’t always understand why I don’t have even more worries!

A constant theme in my life, and consequently on my blog, is the whole concept of being productive/ planning/ redeeming the time.   It occurs to me as I often ponder how I got here that when you are an educated woman with abilities to do a number of things and do them well, you get pulled in a number of areas.   And on one hand, there is nothing wrong with that–as long as you know when to say “when.”   Here are some other thoughts I have had about my time while on this earth:

Stay focused on purpose.   As Rick Warren states so much more eloquently, just because you can do something does not mean you should.   There are a number of items that compete for my attention.  Some are projects that I genuinely need to make time for, like home maintenance and improvement projects (I dare not list them out).  Some are projects that I enjoy, but just do not have time for right now, like sewing or scrapbooking.   Some items are just fun, like “visiting” around on Facebook–but do I really have the time?   And is this activity furthering my progress or fulfilling my purpose?    Well, yes and no…

Keep the main thing, well, the main thing.   I have overall prorities; I grow increasingly clear on my purpose.   Yet, I also have to submit my schedule to the Lord each day, allowing His wisdom to guide me in what needs to be accomplished on that day.  And though I know some will disagree, it is not always as simple as husband second, children third, etc.  If I went about every day in that order, I would never do anything else, as family is a non-stop ministry.  Plus, it would not allow the children to grow into the necessary self-sufficiency for them to function as young adults.   Some days, laundry is the main thing.  Other days, grades or a writing deadline might be the main thing.  And yes, many days, family is the main thing.

A list is your friend.   When I worked outside of my home, planning the day, complete with A, B, and C priorities,  was a part of my morning, over-coffee routine.  At home, however, I might heat my tea three times before I actually make a list, and then I write items that I have completed and check them off just to give myself a feeling of accomplishment.   Getting up before the kids would be of immense help here, but let’s face it: I have not sprung forward well.  Yet, I have been using my phone for more of its total functionality as a tool, not just a toy. My calendar has each week’s activities loaded, and I am using my “memo” app to keep track of my notes, and–check me out– I even wrote the lion’s share of this blog post with it!!  Yay me!!!

The Scriptures say that the race is not given to the swift nor to the strong, but to the one who endures until the end.   May our wonderful Counselor guide us each day in how to run our races such that others might see us and glorify Him who is in Heaven.

A Party for the Non-Party Planner

May 11th. 

courtesy of karaspartyideas.com

courtesy of karaspartyideas.com

That’s the day of our city-wide homeschool graduation ceremony.   As I put together these last 9-10 weeks of lesson plans, I am constantly reminded of how close that date really is relative to today.   Even more staggering, for lack of a better word, is the fact that our oldest has even less time in actual school days.   Her days at His Way Home School will actually come to a close by the end of April.   (I am anticipating the revolt from my younger two when she is finished versus the 3 or so weeks that they’ll have left).   With that being a fact, I sense time as an increasingly looming presence that constantly tugs at me, reminding me of the many items that I basically have, at this point, about one month to complete.

One of those many items–with several subsets of tasks underneath–is to put together a graduation party.   Can I be honest?   That is sssssssssoooooooo not me.    I’d be happy to invite the family and a few close friends over to pots and paper plates, eat and greet, and call it a day.   In fact, this whole listing of tasks before the “big day” brought back distant memories of my own high school graduation events.   I graduated during the same weekend in which a dear cousin of mine got married.   Translation: a whole lot of family with a whole lot to do.   And true to the nature of a big, Southern family, we fellowshipped and ate together every night, celebrating each event in its turn.   I don’t recall having any regrets about that time.   I’m sure I won’t regret this time, either, but I’m not looking forward to the numbers of people and the general hustle and bustle of sitting through a graduation ceremony–or at least some of it–then running off to prepare for a reception.   The introvert in me just can’t get ready for all the activity, and I feel only one semi-emotion when I think about the day: anxious.    BUT, the oldest asked for a party for her graduation; she’s not asked for a party in almost 10 years, and everyone around us–immediate family and friends–has that gentle, electric buzz about her big day to come, and all the plans of her young adulthood that will take new shape and form as she leaves our home.   So, here we go.

courtesy of deliciousdeliciousdelicious.blogspot.com

courtesy of deliciousdeliciousdelicious.blogspot.com

Enter Pinterest.   My dear friend Kerimae blogged recently about the impact of computers, and how the digital age has taken as much–if not more–than it has given us in our quest for effectiveness and efficiency.   At least, that’s what I got out of her post.  As I shared with her, the computer has cost me a lot.   Work requires that I spend hours on it; home education requires that I engage with computers, and technology in general.   Building a business demands that I use social media networks, i.e., free advertising, to my advantage.    My sacrifice is that I don’t get to do some other fun and necessary items, like spending time out-of-doors weeding, walking, and generally taking in the fresh air.  BUT, one thing a computer has done for me is to expand my knowledge base and comfort level very quickly in areas with which I’m totally unfamiliar and/or hopelessly inadequate.

I will confess that I didn’t really see the point of Pinterest for a long time; I joined because it seemed to be the flow of traffic in terms of social media, and I thought it’d be another way to keep up with friends.   I have an Evernote account that allows me to store and access my favorites from any computer, so what is the point, right?   Yet, with Pinterest being such a visual medium, I thought it might be the perfect place to find party ideas and foods that are simple enough to prepare, and pretty enough to make a visually striking party.   A basic search of ‘graduation party ideas’ did not disappoint.   I spent hours “pinning” pictures to my own boards after finding tons of simple food ideas that I could combine with minimal catering and look as if I actually have some skill in this area.  These pictures are just a few of the  ideas I found, but probably won’t incorporate.   Are you as amazed as I am at the creativity of people??!!

There are still other party-related items that must happen.  Interestingly enough, while I drafted this post, Office Depot sent a discount code for graduation invitations–talk about God’s hand.   Another dear friend who dabbles in professional photography offered to take the oldest’s graduation pictures gratis–another blessing.  I even found party items for her intended college of choice, thanks to Party City.   Also, my Pinterest party idea board has several links to printables and other simple food ideas.    Perhaps the most telling–or embarrassing, dependent upon how you look at it–part of this whole digital revelation is that actually, I was inspired by the youngest, who began searching for themes for her upcoming sleepover–a party that I’ve not “officially” gotten on board with, by the way.   True to her nature, she already has a list of invitees, a schedule, a budget based upon what she found at Party City, and yes, she, too, has perused blogs and Pinterest for party ideas–far before I thought to do so.   Gotta love these grown-ups in miniature bodies.

Now if I can pare our list of invitees down to a realistic number of what the room will hold, and if I can learn to not be so heavy-handed with my food glue, i.e., corn syrup, someone just might think that I had a good time with this whole thing.   😉

With Spring in the air…

With March even closer than just around the corner, I find myself pondering about…

Spring Break plans.   There are a number of work activities that are way past due, but I look forward to writing letters to a couple of friends, pruning the flower beds, and welcoming spring.   I want to sleep in on the cool morning and drink a cup of tea.   Though I know this area is prone to one last cold spell right before Easter, I think that, given the amount of rain we had this winter, we might begin a spring/ summer garden this year.   Our vegetables were SO tasty years ago, so unlike the  store-bought varieties, until I thought this a worthwhile investment in time and money.   My husband is even thinking about fruit trees.

 

Next school year.   Our oldest will move far away to college, and if the Lord says the same, our son will begin his dual enrollment season at the local community college.   He will still continue some of his studies here.  My larger concern, however, is that he is entering college a year younger than the oldest did, but the Honors Director who interviewed her will retire after this spring semester.   We wanted to continue to operate in the favor that has been ours for the last year or more, and so we decided to have him interview under the same director.  I’m as excited for him for him as he is for himself, but I’m also not ready to lose two babies in one school year.   Call me melodramatic on that one, but my nest is emptying way too fast.

Similarly, with just the youngest and I at home, all of those “when it’s just the two of us, we’ll…” plans no longer have an excuse not to happen.   She’s my outdoorsy one, and before we actually began school, I always dreamed of spending outdoor time on a blanket with books.   I guess I’ll have to get a blanket and a lap desk and get after it.

Scribblechecklapdesk2

The next 6-8 weeks.  For the graduate, the list is long.  Our area actually has two homeschool graduations!   I left it up to the oldest if she wanted to “graduate” publicly, and even let her decide on the school name!   After all, His Way Home School has far more to do with focusing me on a direction than it does anything or anyone else.   However, His Way Home was fine for her, and yes, she wants the Cadillac with all four wheels.   That means that within the next month or so, we’ll need to…

  • secure invitations, graduation robe and honors tassels
  • compile an invitation list and mail all the notices to family and friends
  • plan a celebration for the after-graduation ceremony
  • take senior pictures
  • get a class ring
  • secure all final records for her college of choice
  • pull together memory boards and pictures for her table at graduation
  • put together a science project for her final competition
  • prepare for the final dance recital (and get the others ready in turn for an extra-special recital year)
  • help her with making her dress for the science competition

Those are just the highlights that swoosh through my mind today!

I just want to be a good steward of my time, and to take in God’s peace that passes human understanding in the midst of these exciting, yet fretful times.   To stay close to the Lord through it all, to walk with Him each day–this is my heart’s desire.

 

As a deer thirsts for streams of water, so I thirst for you, God–Psalms 42:1

 

 

In whatever He has anointed your hands to do, stay thirsty, my friends.

8 Tasks for NOW before sending your kid to College LATER

Though my primary audience is homeschoolers, much of this advice is actually applicable for any parent of a middle school or younger high school child, regardless of the current method of education.

At the beginning of this year, it occurred to me to try an idea that had been simmering within the old noggin for a number of years: separate my blog.   Whether you call it niche blogging, branding, or any other rose that would smell as sweet, at the end of the day, I just felt as if my blog didn’t know what it wanted to be when it grew up.   My natural hair journey–a HOT, hot topic among women right now–had completely overshadowed all of the family, home, and homeschool posts that are really the purpose of this blog.   Nothing wrong with that–inspiration is inspiration, but in tieing the blog to the business site, I felt it might be confusing for those who visit here from that site to then find post after post about what my hair has looked like for the last two or more years.

As I said, when I made the decision, it sounded like a great idea.   It still might be, I’m hoping.   But what I’m finding is that now I’m getting pulled away from both blogs by the other tasks that are consuming my time.   When I sat back and thought about my current lack of time issue, the rest of my life looks pretty much the same.  BUT, there are two factors that have definitely impacted my blogging frequency:  1) my laptop finally gave up the proverbial ghost, which reduced the family to one highly overused laptop and a desktop.  Because much of my writing is done in “off hours,” I just can’t drrrrraaaaaagggg myself out of bed to get on the desktop and then motivate myself to write.  Then there’s the other issue: college preparation for the oldest, and the amount of time these items take in the evenings.   Generally, I don’t plan the time (part of the problem), but instead I hear, “Mom, I’ll need some help with _______ ,” with associated deadline, and there goes the evening.

From the outside looking in, you might immediately think that I should delegate more, or let her grow up and handle these things alone since she’ll have to anyway, blah, blah, blah.   I say that because those were all the thoughts I had when we initially began this process.   Then I found myself wondering why certain tasks were taking her soooooo long to complete, and why she became so frustrated if one new opportunity was added, or why her sleep was cut so short, etc.    During the Christmas holiday, I remember telling my husband , “I’m just going to have to get more involved.”   I said that somewhat resigned to the fact that there was that time management issue, and I was again having to play mom-to-the-rescue when I shouldn’t have to, and will we ever get over this hump?   Ugh.    What I’ve come to realize over the last couple or three months is that there are a few strategic steps that we could have, and should have, begun as early as two years ago, even though I thought we were well ahead of the game.   So did my relatives, who laughed at us about the trips we would make on campuses with our then 3- and 6-year-olds.

The following is not a list of sure-fire ways to get your kid into college; bear in mind that the first graduate of His Way Home School has yet to actually graduate.   Instead, consider this a listing of how to prepare in advance for the tasks that will potentially consume your days during your child’s senior year.   I listed these in no particular order.

1. Make your list of people to consider writing recommendations  NOW  Many scholarship applications require one or more outside references in addition to the information provided on the application.   Moreover, unlike a public school child who can pull from a myriad of teachers and counselors, the list of those who can recommend a homeschooled child for a college and/or college money might be considerably shorter.   The time to think about who is dependable, eloquent, and close enough to your child to write a recommendation is NOT when there are 5 applications due and 12-15 letters needed.    Another factor to consider is who is willing to perhaps be called upon more than once should the need arise.    Make sure that you have the right contact information for each person on the list, and also make sure via a conversation that they are willing and able to place your child in the best possible light.

2. Begin the scholarship hunt early.   There is money available for any child to attend school.    A place of employment could be a source of dollars; a social organization or business can offer funds.   There are funds available for reading and reviewing books!   Yet, the work to find scholarships, to be sure that you meet the requirements, and then to work against deadlines and coordinate those around you to do the same is no small feat.  In our home, we actually put together a spreadsheet based upon due dates, work required for completion, and the level of competition (specific college, local, national, etc.)  There are books available such as The Ultimate Scholarship Book by Gen and Kelly Tanabe, but also consider the following sites (free for signing up such that you get notices when scholarships that match your profile become available):  http://www.zinch.com, http://www.cappex.com, and http://www.fastweb.com .

3. Roll college visits into your vacation plans.   Why forego that camping trip you really want to take in favor of treking through a college campus or two?   Leah Latimer says it best in her Higher Ground: Preparing African-American Children for College (although her words apply to any child):

It’s all about early awareness and advance planning: Researching the road ahead before you reach it.  Knowing what the choices

are well before you have to make them.   Realizing what opportunities lie ahead so you can position your child to take advantage

of them.   Understanding future requirements so so you can start preparing your child at an early age to meet them. (p. 23)

Enough said, right?   If I might add anything from personal experience, each of our older children has had a vision of the college where they just HAD to go.   That vision lasted for years–right up until we actually began making the investment to visit the campuses.    The oldest did not even apply to her “had-to” choice, and our son, who is not far behind her, took his “had-to” choice completely off his list of considerations.   You might not be able to visit every campus that enters your child’s dreams, but if you can narrow the choices down to 3-4, it might be well within your grasp to make a vacation out of a personalized tour.   More importantly, it might save you and your child tens of thousands of dollars.

4. Take advantage of open houses, senior days, and other opportunities for guided tours, even if you do not take a 1-on-1 personal tour.   Don’t just veg out while you walk.   Compile a list of questions for the college tour guide/ representatives.  The questions below are listed in no particular order.

 1. Dorms–is housing guaranteed for all 4 years? If not, is there a guarantee, and if so, for how long? Is there help for finding housing off-campus?
2. How are advisors assigned, and what is the student/ advisor ratio?
3.  How easy is it to change majors? Do you lose all your credits? Also, how many students double-major?
4. Application process–are you assigned specific contacts throughout the process, or are you just a number?
5. What is the timing on decision for acceptance vs. decision for financial aid? (try to find out whether you have to accept before you know how much money you’ll get)
6. Listing of scholarship/ grant opportunities?
7. Do they have a career placement office and what type of help do they offer?
8. Are internships available, and if so, where? What companies?
9.  Library–what hours? (ask the same of the on-campus eating locations?)
10. What type of interaction with the surrounding community?

11.  (to ask of the college-aged tour guide) Why did you choose this college/ university?

5. Talk to your child–honestly and candidly–about money and debt.   I would not presume to tell you what to say.   Perspectives on college costs can range from “you’re not going to _______ school if it cost one dime out of our budget” to “going in debt is how everyone gets through college.”   Either position, and all thoughts in between, have merit.   But given that colleges will talk to your child about paying for college–not you, even though you might be the one who actually writes the check–you need to at minimum have the conversation so that your child’s eyes are wide open regarding the high costs of college and what is the plan to pay for it.

6. Prepare your child for test-taking environments.     Test comfort and preparation can also be a determinant of money.   National Merit scholarships are a function of high PSAT scores, and ACT and SAT scores translate into more dollars.   Dependent upon the state requirements, however, your child may not have taken a standardized test before.   There are study guides available for these tests in your local library, and these same resources are available for purchase.   The College Board site also allows your child access to a daily SAT question.   In any case, you don’t want your child’s first experience with these critical exams to be when the scores will be reported to various colleges.    I should mention, though, that these tests can be taken more than once if the results are not as you want after the first time.   

7. Keep records for yourself of your child’s accomplishments throughout the high school years, and document his/ her work as clearly and succinctly as possible.  In some states, record keeping is standard protocol for homeschooling.   In Texas, however, such is not the case, and which year your child did what can become a blur in the other flurry of activities.   There are several companies that offer affordable record keeping tools, including transcript software.     HSLDA offers free transcript formats.  The various options in formatting gave us the opportunity to craft a transcript that highlighted our children’s strengths and minimized those other areas.

8.  Write those essays.   Our experience has been that, if an application requires an essay, your child will be asked to respond to something along the following lines:

  • what higher education means to me/ why do I want to go to college
  • what have I done/ will I do to help my surrounding community
  • where I want to be in 5 years
  • how will college help me reach my professional and non-professional goals
  • what person has inspired me the most

If you can start your child to at least think about these items, if not write them, they will be so much farther down the proverbial road.   All that becomes necessary at this point is tweaking the essays such that they fit a specific application.

Obviously, the demands of your home may dictate that additional steps are necessary, or there may be areas that, dependent upon your child’s goals, might not be necessary.    Whatever is the mountain ahead of you when it comes to getting your child ready for college, I wish you the very best at climbing it.   Be blessed, dear friends.

The Math Genius

 Like any home educator, our heart is to give our children the best education possible.   And like most home educators, along the way, there are decisions to be made—decisions that bring uncertainty and anxiety.   I love the peace of Jehovah Shalom, and that occasional glimpse of His steady hand in the midst of our unsteadiness in navigating this road less traveled by.   I witnessed such a moment recently during a dialogue between our two girls.

As a brief bit of background, the oldest is in the throes of college scholarship applications.   She has answered questions about what college means to her, what are her plans after college, and how she intends to give back to the community often enough to write those phrases in her sleep.   On this particular day, however, the question was a bit different.  My paraphrased version goes something like this:

Name an area in which you have had to overcome a difficult situation, or an area that has challenged you, and how you were able to overcome that challenge, or if it remains a challenge for you.

043

The oldest chose to write about her struggles with math, and it was an eye-opening read for me as she shared why she thought math was difficult.   It was even more eye-opening for the youngest, who happened to walk by and begin reading.   After reading through the oldest’s essay, she thought to offer a

word of encouragement.  (You would have to envision a 9-going-on-39 voice and mentality to truly appreciate this):

‘Don’t feel bad.   I can remember when I was in 1st grade, and 2nd and 3rd.   I used to have soooo maaaannny problems with math—addition, subtraction, and multiplication.    But then I hit 4th grade, and I started division, and now, I’m a math genius!!!’

The oldest and I laughed heartily at the “old woman” reflecting upon her early math memories.   But what almost provoked tears, more of joy than of laughter, was the happiness I had that I intentionally waited a year to introduce division into her math studies.   I thought her remembrance of math facts was shaky, and there were other areas that I wanted to see her “tighten up.”   And, like many home educators, my hesitations found steroids as I began to worry about what being “behind” (quotes used intentionally) in math would mean in terms of that all-important question of w

hat grade she is in, not to mention graduation dates or college—YIKES!!     Once I calmed down, though, we just kept plugging away with the skills she needed to be more comfortable.    We added drill sheets from Calculadder to build upon her memorization (we also took some things away as appropriate).   We fought through the frustrations, gradually adding a new challenge as the previous drills became mundane.     So, that level of self-esteem and self-confidence, however braggadocios it might have sounded, meant everything to me.

I wanted to capture this moment for those who may be close to tearing your hair out and wondering, “Will my child ever get this??!!”  It will be alright.

Savoring Life’s Amazement and Wonder

One of the things we’ve been blessed to do over our 20 years together is to travel.    Sometimes our trips have been semi-grand vacations, but more often, they’ve been treks through backwoods places and country roads as we hop in the car with Dad while he visits customers.   Inevitably as we ride, we always laugh about the strangest of our vacations, and we talk about places we’d love to visit a second time.

I’d love to see Oahu  and the other islands of Hawaii again, as we did on our honeymoon, but NOT in what we chose as a hotel.   That was back in the days before we realized that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

I’ve never been as awestruck, and simultaneously frightened, as I was by the number of stars we saw while returning from Big Bend National Park.    Looking into that dark night and marvelling at God’s handiwork made me ponder how small and insignificant I am amongst the many wonders of this planet.

There are other trips that I would love to repeat a second time and perhaps none of them were as exciting to me as our first trip to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.   Short of traveling to Africa, which I might not ever do, this is the closest I will come to a safari experience.     So during our Thanksgiving break, with no family due to arrive, we took  the opportunity to see this area again, and it did not disappoint–for the most part.    The only dent in this Rolls Royce of a field trip is that we could not get the giraffes to come and visit!   During our last trip to the Center, we were able to interact with them at close range:

Also, NO zoo trip has matched the experience of actually having one eat out of my hand,

but it was enjoyable all the same.

The changes to our family dynamic were interesting to note during this second trip, as well.    During our first visit, our youngest was afraid of such closeness with the animals.    The older kids were amazed and excited, although it took a minute for the oldest to decide that feeding an animal up close might be fun.

During this trip, our youngest was SO eager to feed and touch every animal until we had to ask her repeatedly to just caaaaaaalm doooooowwwwwn, and the oldest is ‘no longer a friend of Narnia, ‘ (said in all of Aslan’s majesty).   She considered herself a bit old to feed animals, and was not clear on why she “had to” go.    Funny, even though her leaving us is months away, I watch her head off to our local cc, and/or take field trips with her college buddies–kids we only know by her descriptions–and realize how the Lord is slowly, lovingly allowing us to detach.   But, before that event becomes our reality, we wanted to capture a few moments with us together as five, and the children together as three.

Alright, enough melancholy moments.    The balking of an almost-grown-up kid, the fatigue (did I mention that I worked the night before?), and the price doubling as Fossil Rim realizes what a gold mine it is, were all well worth it.    After all, at how many other locations in the Western Hemisphere can you get this close to God’s creations that normally exist on the other side of the globe?

How many times have you stared an emu in the eye?

When have you seen a wildebeest that was not being chased by a crocodile?

We may not visit a third time; there are so many fun places to go, and it occurs to me as the kids get older that we cannot savor that moment of surprise and wonder forever.   Now they know what to expect.    Perhaps that is just like life itself.   Then again, some other animal could always take a clue from the giraffe and change the whole trip…

How to Make Friends in 2012

Have you ever looked at your spouse and wondered what on earth you have in common?

My husband is an extrovert; I am an introvert.   When I worked in corporate America, a key component of my job involved a study of “type,” and how various traits and perspectives could be used to make people work more effectively together.   I’ve used these same skills here at home in looking at relationships within my family, both immediate and extended.   To say that I’m introverted in this sense has nothing to do with being shy.   Believe me: I am not shy.   Introvertedness and extrovertedness have everything to do with how you process the world around you.   It’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing: it helps me think.

Now back to my husband.   My husband is an extrovert.   Extroverts process the world around them via their associations with people, things, etc.   My husband, as one example, struggles with just letting a phone ring without answering, or not running to the mailbox to get the daily mail: he feels as if he’s missing something.   As long as I know the family’s safe, I never have to see any mail or answer a phone, and those modes of communications often go unnoticed by me if the person/ address in unfamiliar.

Another difference is our individual emphasis on friendships.   Personally, if I have 2-3 people in my life with whom I make a “real” connection, I’m good.   My husband, on the other hand, loves to meet new people and connect in a different way with a wealth of people.   I’m the person on Facebook (or in Blogland) who has relatively fewer friends, but a heart-felt closeness with each person who has crossed my path.   He’s the guy who was last in the family to get a FB account, but who is “above average,” shall we say, in his hours of reaching out and touching everyone.

Given this difference of focus on people and friendships, when the kids come home from any event that places them away from the rest of the family, I’m focused on whether or not they enjoyed it, were they safe, is it something that they might want to do again, etc.   My husband’s #1 question is as follows:

‘Did you make any friends?’

 

This was our conversation riding home from church on Sunday.   Our son had spent all day Saturday with a group from a local church.  In fact, he has spent a couple of years with this group of kids.   He enjoys them, and they often reach out to him; from our perspective, he has friends among this group.   But my husband had another question/ concern.   I think largely based on his extroversion, i.e., the different, and arguably higher, need for external relationships.   He says to my son, “Why don’t you guys ever do things that are outside of the church?”   How do you build the friendship?”

Here’s where the conversation gets interesting:

Oldest (oldest children have a unique ability to swing in either direction in order to balance the parental presence of the moment): ” Dad, that’s not how kids make friends anymore.   You trade phone numbers, FB accounts, but you don’t really go out and do alot of stuff together.   You just sort of hang out when you’re around one another.”

Son (decidedly introverted like his mom): “I suppose I could invite them to do something, but I really don’t have the time.”

Youngest (an extrovert showing her age by stating her point several times emphatically, since she’s the baby and feels as if no one listens to her):  “You (meaning her dad and I) have to know the parents!”

 

I left this conversation with no clear-cut answers, but instead several ideas to ponder over time.

What the oldest shared was very consistent with some research her dad saw that suggests that kids today don’t have the same needs to be out and about as those of our generation and previous generations before us.   Social media tools like FB, Twitter (the top two used by teens) and even Oovoo (video chat technology) allow them to connect with friends in a way that we could only do via face-to-face means.   It is totally possible for the kids to dance together, or hang out on campus together, and then use these tools to connect at other times without interfering (too much) with home or school work, or disrupting the family’s general flow.   In fact, my husband is convinced that this dynamic is a large part of what took her so long to finally get a driver’s license.   Here is another article that speaks to teens and their use of social media for positive purposes.

Speed of life is what my son alluded to.   As one example of many, he joined the library’s teen book club this year, but only got to review one book before he had to leave the club when he was asked to take on more responsibilities at the dance center.   Given that Saturdays and Sundays tend to get booked quickly with family time and associated errands, he literally has 1 evening free.  Yeah, bowling or a movie would be nice, but I can also appreciate that he sometimes just wants to read, play a game, or watch a movie!

The youngest’s comment is also valid: safety and security are important.   I see some of my Sunday School students with WAY too much information out on Facebook–college acceptance letters with their personal addresses as a part of the Instagram, posts or even clothing that tells you exactly where their high school or church is located, etc.   That doesn’t mention the occasional hacker who might post pornography to a site–YIKES!   The ability of social media to make the world smaller also means that we must be even more diligent over the ear- and eye gates of our children.   That doesn’t even include the crazies who live around us every day. 

My final thought was about a separate, but still relevant, conversation I had with one of my sisters not long ago.   We talked about a younger generation that is far more “me” oriented–those relatives that you only hear from when it is convenient to their needs.   And while we are blessed to be thought of as lights in the darkness, here’s the bottom line: relationships are important.   Don’t get me wrong: online friends can be marvelous.   There are people whom I now consider among my dearest friends who began as blog  buddies or customers.  I genuinely love them and pray for them as I pray for my own flesh and blood.   In some cases, I’ve visited homes, and in other cases, I’ve slowed down to write a “real” letter–something I don’t even do with my sisters!   But yet, those relationships should never be an excuse to not shake a hand, share a laugh or smile, or offer tangible help when you can.

As an example, we have neighbors diagonally across from us, whose primary relationship exists because of the friendship between our youngest and their daughter/ granddaughter.  We as adults communicate often through texts or e-mails–there’s that speed of life thing again.   But after the husband/father suffered a debilitating stroke, there have been days when we had to meet the school bus and keep their little one.   There’ve been days when my husband’s willingness to pay a hospital visit made the husband’s day.   I thought about all of this as we carted surplus fruits and vegetables from our church’s food fair to their home just yesterday.    It wasn’t a big gift, but it said, “We are thinking about you and we care.”   That small gift was about nurturing a relationship.

Again, I’m not Answer-woman on this one, but I can accept that making friends and building relationships looks very different now than it did when I was young.  Yet, some things never change, and I’m praying that as our kids embrace all of these new tools and ways of connecting, they don’t belittle the joy of a smile, a shared laugh, or a warm hug.

What do you think?  Has social media hurt our kids’ abilities to nurture “real” friendships?