Saturday, 15 August 2009

Social Stuff - Wobbles

A's dissatisfaction with the amount of time spent with friends over the summer came to a head yesterday, when she told me "I've only got about 10 real friends, including my cousins." I said I thought that was pretty good - and more than I had, but she wasn't happy. This threw me into a bit of a panicky/self-doubting/crap parent quandary.

I know that the school playground environment is the very thing that pushes many kids to want to get out and HE, and it wasn't all plain sailing for A all of the time, but it is the one thing she misses about school - social time.

I'm trying to tread carefully here, as I know the 'social isolation' issue is often used as a criticism of HE. I don't think A is socially isolated, she has friends, but she doesn't see them as often as she would like.
Whenever this issue is raised there always seems to be HEors who say things like: "oh, my kids have loads of friends, they don't have time to fit them all in, the house is always full of kids", which somehow makes me feel a bit inadequate as thats not our experience at all.

Our local HE network, lovely as it is, is very widespread and meetings are sporadic, so although we have attended quite a few events and A has got on well with some of the kids, no strong friendships have been built up.

I suppose what worries me most is that its my fault, and somehow I'm limiting her chances. I have specific problems with social stuff, and don't function well in group situations. I have a handful of close friends, but am quite happy spending time by myself, in fact I find I need regular time alone to keep my head together.
A's Dad was the opposite, he couldn't bear to be alone, and while A isn't that extreme I think she's more like him than me when it comes to sociability.

I have made a real effort to take A to different things, like the HE group, astronomy class, nature workshops - as I know this is really important for her. And while I've struggled at times, its probably been good for me too, as I've pushed myself to go to things that I've ended up enjoying. But I cant help feeling that if I was more outgoing it would give A more social opportunities.

We discussed going to school yesterday. Educationally I hate the idea of this - I know without a doubt that HE is the best for A. At the moment she doesn't want to try the local school, but I'm aware that if she continues to feel lonely she may choose to go to school in order to spend more time with friends.

A is joining a new local drama group next week, and I'm still trying to get hold of the local Guides leader to find out about A joining Guides. This is my main hope at the moment - that A will make friends with some local kids and so will get to socialise a bit more after school and at weekends. If this doesn't work out I'm not sure what to try next.

I'd really appreciate some comments here if other people are willing to share experiences on this issue.


Lisa G said...

I really sympathise, we have also had these kind of wobbles and I haven't yet figured it out, still considering giving up my job so my dd can do more, she's a reluctant socialiser and I am more like you, need time to myself etc, a bad combination really! I've also pushed myself to get out more so Girl 2 will be persuaded. You have definitely got a head start on us in that A wants to socialise so it's all about finding ways to do that, drama and guides sounds like a really good idea and hopefully you will find that it works, fingers crossed for you. If not there must be more she may be interested in, a sport, woodcraft folk, nature group, something to do with a hobby she enjoys etc I really hope you figure it out, good luck!

K said...

Hi Lisa,
Thanks :0)
After I posted this I remembered your post a while ago on a similar theme.

Its really hard to know how much to push them isn't it? While A is very sociable, she's shy about starting new things on her own (totally understandable!) I managed to persuade her to try Guides, but I'm worried that if it all goes wrong it will put her off trying other new things. Maybe I'm just being too pessimistic!

Oh well, we cant make their lives perfect for them, I'm sure it will all work out ok. X

Hannah said...

I can relate to your post, even though C would rather spend more time alone now, there were times after coming out of school that he craved a quantity of friendships.
I think drama and guides are a really good idea - I hope they work out for A.
Does her old school have any extra curricular stuff she could join in with? C's old school has an after school club in the hall which is open to all children and a few pounds a session. Not sure if waldorf schools offer things like that?
If she did want to go down the school route for socialising, it'd be worth a taster day and then a discussion about how often the chances to chat with your friends etc. are - I remember a lot of "sit down and shut up" and "socialise on your own time" type comments from staff - I imagine her experiences at her old private school would have been more sociable than a state school.
We have a bit of a hit and miss relationship with HE groups but have had success with meeting friends from the group regularly away from organised settings. Might be worth a try.
I hope you find a solution that suits you both :o)

dawny said...

Hiya K ,
do share our experience with your lovely daughter that it is not quantity of friends but quality. Real genuine friends are hard to find, aquaintances are ten a penny and come and go , often letting you down or even worse being horrible. Us nice people who treat people nicely would like to be treated the same back wouldn't we ? but good friends who treat you well are not found by the dozen load . . . . I'm not sure if that is explaining how we feel here.
friends often prove to be what we haven't wanted and we more and more realise we can just socialize and enjoy many people at different activities or places, but our real friends we may see them less but we need to appreciate them.
still not sure that says what i want it to say , but it's got loads of empathy in it because it's something we've had battles with too.
do email me if you want a natter. xx

K said...

Thanks you two, its really helpful to have some other perspectives on it.

There's not really anything at her old school she can get involved with. We do still go to some of the festivals, which I thought she'd find hard - going as an outsider - but she seems fine with that and just enjoys seeing her old mates. TBH she usually gets such a lovely welcome, I think she enjoys the 'honoured guest' status.
I think she is aware that the local school would be a very different experience.

I have talked to A about quality vs quantity, I'm totally with you on that Dawniy! And A has a couple of really strong friendships. I suppose this whole thing comes down to the fact that A sees less of these friends now, and this was exacerbated when they were away during the summer. This has made A question a few things about her life.

Anyway, the drama went well, so hopefully that will continue to be part of a solution (although its costing me an arm and a leg!!)
I'm also thinking, after what Hannah said, of contacting a couple of families from the HE network, and trying to arrange a get-together again.

Cheers XXX

Elizabeth said...

Socialization--it isn't as easy as some make it out to be!! We have very few 'friends' as compared to 'people we know'. But I've always been like that, and so has my husband. I think it's also hard that we don't have any family within an hours drive-so that even limits that amount of socialization.

Even though the kids are out and about and take group classes, the friendship 'click' hasn't really worked for us. But so far, we still have 2 content children happy to play with the one neighbour.

Another idea for K was to see if she could volunteer at a local library or hospital? not the kind of socialization a young girl may be looking for--but it'd get her out and about and chatting with more people during the week.

I do realize this is going to take alot of work on my behalf--and like you, I'm generally quite content on my own. I'm just not a natural at socialization. But I'm going to try and be more pro-active and less shy to get the ball rolling now-before they feel the 'need' for it!

K said...

Hi Elizabeth,

I think this may be something that keeps coming up for A, she's fine the majority of the time, but there will always be times when she's aware that being away from a classroom situation means spending less time among friends. However - as Hannah pointed out - quite a lot of class time isn't very 'social'!

Been pondering this whole thing some more -
I think I need to stop trying to make her life 'perfect', as noone's life is. I know full well that if she were in school there would be times when she was miserable - falling out with friends for example (the down side to being with them all the time!). Also, maybe she needs to work out some solutions herself to the things in her life she's dissatisfied with (with my support of course).