Friday, August 1, 2014

But what about friends?!?

Raising a gifted child is sort of like opening a can of peanut brittle.  Is it really peanut brittle, or is it the can with the snake inside?  As I'm getting farther and farther into this glorious mess, however, I'm finding that I have the best success relating to Mad Natter when I treat him, to the best of my memory, how I would have wanted to be treated as a child.  Mercifully, as a gifted adult, my memory is incredibly long (yes, I do remember the rock The Law Mom's dog used to pee on when we were four, why do you ask?), so this isn't quite as hard as it could be.

The thing that seems to weird people out is that between Mad Natter being gifted, and his being homeschooled, people are convinced he'll never have any friends.  He's "different" by design, and therefore needs to be put into a classroom full of age-peers so he can make friends. Because without that, there would be no friendships.  Ever.  But, stop and think.  How many of your friends - can you count them? - did you meet in school?  Now, how many of those friendships were genuine, and are lasting?  Because I have maybe three people in my life now that I met at school and not outside of it.  Three.  And that's a guess, and putting a couple people in there because I'm not quite sure where I met them after all.

When I think of the people who are truly my friends: The Law Mom, Stellar Mama, AngusChick, Daizy, KD, Mrs Warde... I didn't meet any of these people in school.  I met one before, four after, and one in University.  The friendships that have had the most impact on my life are not the ones forged in the schoolroom, where I sat being the odd kid out, the "friend of last resort" or the friend of the new kid - until they found 'cooler' friends than Care.  The friendships that matter were made on my own terms, outside of forced interaction, and in the context of living my life.  These are people who have the same struggles, the same interests, the same... Almost the same sort of soul.  We get on well because we do.  We can not speak to each other for months or even years... and pick up one day as if we'd only just talked the day before.

So what kind of friendships do I want for my son?  The kind that are forced, and don't last beyond the school building?  Or the ones that really last?  The ones with people who genuinely care about you, and think of you fondly?  There is a reason that Mad Natter still has Skype chats with Girl Friday, even though she and Stellar Mama moved across the continent six months ago.  They get along. They like each other.  They miss each other, and I'm not going to encourage Mad Natter to make friends with whomever he's the same age as... and not encourage him to keep his friendship with Girl Friday - where there's a genuine connection.  Friendship has a few things in common with childbirth - you can't rush it, and something beautiful is waiting for you if you take care of it.  And I'm not going to force friendships.  It never led to anything good for me - quite the opposite - and I doubt it would lead to good things for Mad Natter either.  And so, let childhood run its course.  Let parents matter more than peers.  Let your kids find their own friends, don't force them into superficial relationships that only matter in counting how many kids are coming for a party.  Let them pick their own friends, and let them develop real friendships.

Now, mind, if your child picks up friends like mine does dirt, that's different - it's the choice of the child, and not the number of friends, that's important.  Let them move at their own speed, to their own comfort.  It will all work out in the end.