After being away for a couple of days (which I’m so excited to write about…keep an eye out!) I came home to daughters and a husband full of of stories of their weekend fun. I was Facetimed by one daughter because she couldn’t wait to show me all the prizes she won at a local fair. I texted with my other daughter while I was away to keep up with what was happening in her busy middle school social life. I was greeted by my guy with warm hugs and recaps of the highs and lows of the weekend at home.
But there’s a son in there somewhere. A son who is quirky and has a hard time expressing his feelings, let alone understand the feelings of others. He is independent and often isolated. Fixations often rule his day and he cannot find creative solutions to challenges, only logical ones. He is charming and sweet yet has a hard time connecting with other boys his age, as badly as he wants to.
He had nothing to say about his weekend. One word answers and grunts and shrugs were all the response I got to probing questions. I know this may be quite typical for ten year old boys, but if left to his own vices I fear he might never have meaningful connections in his life. And in my opinion, that is what life is all about.
People need relationships. Our spirits need to connect with other spirits. And communication is the key to successful relationships. I’ve always been a little bit skeptical of social skills training (which we have done with him through the years). Can this be taught for those who don’t naturally feel it, don’t naturally inquire, aren’t naturally curious?
I’m going to try an experiment at home this week. When the kids come home from school we’re going to have a conversation. I don’t think my son has had many conversations in his life. We’re going to share about our day. We’ll each ask another what a highlight of our day was–and we need to make eye contact and listen. When my husband comes home, we’re going to sit down and have another conversation. Only this time we don’t share about our own day, we share about another family member’s day.
For my son this will mean that he has to ask a question of a family member (act inquisitive), he’ll have to make eye contact (insinuating a connection), he’ll have to listen and retain the answer (showing interest), then he’ll have to share it with his dad (exhibiting the reciprocity of communication). And chances are, when one of us shares the highlights of his day in the process, additional questions will arise (because we ARE interested, inquisitive, and craving a connection with him) which he will need to answer.
It may sound so simple to make a plan to have a conversation with your kids, to share some details of you day. But this is going to be work. My goal is to not get frustrated, to make it playful and fun, and to truly enjoy the sharing of what my kids find meaningful. And to be patient, for as challenging as this is going to be for me, this is going to be really hard for my little man. He’s not going to like it or understand why we’re doing it. But if he can learn some of these skills at home, with people who unconditionally love him, hopefully he’ll be able to see that having a conversation with a classmate, showing interest in what they’re interested in, and making a connection will get him the new friend he wants, and will give him the satisfaction of someone else, in turn, being interested in him.
Isn’t it amazing the vast obstacles that people have to face? The simplest of things we cannot take for granted. For all the things I find challenging, one thing I am comfortable with is connecting to people. Maybe that’s one more reason this precious soul was given to me to nurture and show the way. For that I am immensely grateful.