The Importance of Meaningful Human Connection

Lately, on our down days (so the weekends and over the Christmas break), my daughter’s desires to have a playdate are VERY apparent. When things don’t work out or I resist hosting an extra child, she gets really upset. Of course, since she’s eight, she doesn’t handle her big feelings of upset in the best manner. 

As our holiday has progressed and we’ve had some quiet days at home and some busier days with extra people around, Mackenzie’s level of “happiness” has fluctuated. Quiet days are hard for her. She longs for someone to play with, and makes several attempts (or bids) to play with her sister … in the fort, dolls, school, and the like, but their differences are only amplified as her little sister resists the “pretend play” that Mackenzie loves so, so much. 

The big sister cries out, “Why doesn’t anyone ever want to play with me?” “See, she hates me!” “Everybody hates me!” “Some family!” “I hate my life!” “I’m a mistake!” and the like!!! She cries and stomps around; she slams her door and collapses on the floor. She can’t see straight because she’s so upset, and we get frustrated (and we worry) because she seemingly just … can’t … cope … 

But, you know what? 

I’ve had my own moments of upset on this holiday, and the importance of people to “do life” with has become so, so obvious … just a few days ago, after my own disappointment with a “play date” not working out because of a miscommunication, I had to “get away” and cry my own silent tears … on my walk, I found myself wondering why no one wants to be with me … why no one else initiates a get-together … why people invite “extra” people when we’re planning to get-together (in my mind, it’s because I’m impossible to be around … there’s clearly something wrong with me) … I blubbered my way through the first part of my walk asking all of these questions out loud … to no one … because I was alone … and in that moment (and in many others) I knew exactly how my daughter felt … she feels lonely … she wants to be with people … she wants to play … WITH PEOPLE … she loves people … she already KNOWS that life is ABOUT people … 

And I get it … 

My richest, most profound and enjoyable experiences in life, are the moments and the days when I am fully present and engaged in something WITH good people … a cross-country ski with a friend, a phone call with a fellow homeschool mom, a coffee date with my mom (kid-free), a lunch date with a friend, a walking trail walk with a friend, a phone call (or an in-person visit) with an old friend, a night out with my husband, singing Christmas songs in church, talking about Santa with the Red Apple employees, sitting at the kitchen table with one of my homeschool families, a visit with a former-colleague BEFORE the meeting starts, a “real” conversation in the Subway line-up … the list goes on and on … 

It’s become VERY apparent to me, too, lately that my own feelings of bitterness or grumpiness or “upset” are rooted in a lack of meaningful HUMAN CONNECTION. There’s too much “going through the motions,” too much “multitasking,” too much much small-talk, too much alone time, too many “unanswered bids” to be with or spend time with someone, too many “no’s” … 

Too many no’s and we stop asking (or in my daughter’s case … we scream, yell, and cry) … but we also start wondering what’s wrong with us …

And introverted, home-bodies like me struggle with this profoundly at times. We insulate ourselves from the outside world, we stay in, we hide, we pretend we’re okay … that we can do this on our own … that it’s all good … yet, we still yearn for and need that human connection … and sometimes that needs to be outside of our immediate family (just because we live under the same roof as someone doesn’t mean that a connection exists) … 

In my work now, I’ve become even more isolated … my colleagues are 400 km away, so there’s no “shop talk” around the water cooler … most of the families I work with are 100-200 km away so our “gatherings” are minimal … there is but a handful of fellow-homeschooling families in our community, and no one’s “inviting me out.” Don’t get me wrong, I CHOSE THIS, and I love the opportunity it gives me to “be home,” fulfill my purpose, to serve, to homeschool my own daughter, and generally “be there” for my family when I need to be.  

Beyond distance, there’s always other “reservations” that keep us from connecting with others … our fears set in and the “what ifs” get away on us … what if they say no? What if it’s not worth my time to actually go? Getting out the door is always such a hassle. Anything meaningful gets interrupted anyway. The house is too messy to host! The kids never want to leave when we go somewhere. Then there’s the “emotional upheaval” after a friend leaves (or when something is over). And what about all the things that need to get done around here? What about all the stuff I have to pack to go there? And the drive? Blah, blah, blah, blah … and we talk ourselves out of the very thing that WE NEED … the very thing that fills us up beyond measure … the chance for meaningful human connection.

My daughter likes (and yearns for) one-on-one play dates where she and her friend can focus solely on one another … she “gets it” ALREADY … she knows that a group setting (like a classroom or a dance class or a birthday party) means less connection … less LOVE for her … so from the outside, we get annoyed because she appears selfish or attention-seeking (because she wants ALL THE LOVE to herself) … BUT she’s actually quite intuitive … it’s amazing, at just eight-years-old, how bright she is in this regard already … I truly hope she keeps this profound understanding as she progresses through her life and forms different relationships with different people … 

Of course, our challenge now is to help her emotionally through the disappointments that accompany these yearnings. This is where I struggle the most sometimes, since most of the time around here, it’s just one hot mess (me) trying to support and help another hot mess (Mackenzie). If nothing else, I always have the ability to empathize and show compassion, I guess … because I get it! 

I think it’s time to plan another play date! 

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