Kids Need Socialization
That’s right. And it’s one of the things I have felt guiltyabout, until tonight. I felt guilty because a- I guess parents always have tofeel guilty about something and b- though I’m taking my kids on an open-endedworld adventure, I feel I am taking them away from their social network ofschool friends and cousins. So, this nomadic way of life if great, but theymiss having friends.
We arrive somewhere, volunteer and hang out for two months,and then, walla! they have friends again. Until… we move on to the next place.A few nights before we left our ranch at La Lucha de la Tigra in Costa Rica, myson Orazi ate nothing at dinner. [Sure-tell sign of trouble] “What’s up Orazi”?The boy breaks down about how much he hates it that by the time he makesfriends, and falls in love with them, and he has leave them. “And I’ll probablynever see Ever [his new best friend] again in my entire life”. Needless to say,I bawled as Kobi wiped a few tears away. What are we doing to our children?
Yes, they do have each other. That always was a bigthing for us. We’ve always felt that if they were close to each other; thatthat precious, long-lasting bond could accompany them for life. We brought ourthree beautiful blessings into the world intentionally in 2002, 2003, and2004.. We homeschooled for two and a half years; we founded a multi-agecommunity school which all three could attend together; and now, we’ve createda default situation in which their best friends out of necessity are eachother. So, yes, they do have each other, and it has been magical.
But what about long-term friendships? What about buildingthose relationships with peers that include acting goofy, discovering the worldtogether, and sharing mutual experiences that build on themselves?
Earlier this week, we moved into our newest home in AltaBoquete in Northern Panama. It’s a tiny adorable cabin with a huge porch.Driving out of the neighborhood, we were talking among ourselves, wondering ifthe water was drinkable. We saw a neighbor out in his yard, and stopped toasked him. Turns out the Universe smiles at us yet again, in lovely creative ways.This is how we met Alberto from the Netherlands and his Panamanian wife andwere invited to the best party we’ve been to in a long, long time. (text continues after pics…)
We arrive to a potluck fiesta that night filled withdelicious steak, barbecue chicken, chorizos, salads, homemade cakes, and morealcohol than the crowd knew what to do with. Music filled the neighborhood;everyone was laughing, drinking, dancing, and talking around little tables thatkept being replenished with more fine treats. Our companions for the night werea lively, eclectic crowd of English-speaking expats; young, beautifulPanamanian women; their Panamanian family members; and a whole bunch of youngerAmericans who simply found another way of life here in the topical worlds ofCentral America. There were two youngAmerican couples who were sailors living off secluded islands off the PacificCoast of Panama. It was Ian, the young man with an expectant wife, whoconverted my guilt about socialization to pride and peace of mind.
To make a long story short; Ian shared of his adventures asa boy living in Africa, backpacking with his parents through Guatemala, andlater again backpacking in South America. He spoke of how his early familyexhibitions really molded him as a person. His travels made him a citizen ofthe world exposed to faces so different from his own. We laughed about howpeople always say that my kids are missing all those things they should belearning in the classroom, and how the world was a richer classroom than anytextbook fact or multiplication tables they may be missing. And then he saidsomething that surprised me. “Life on the road was the absolute best thing for mysocialization.”
“Yeah, that’s the hard part. They miss having their friends.They need more socialization,” I reply.
I clearly didn’t get it. Ian goes on, “For me, as a child,my family’s world travels had the greatest impact on my socialization skillsfor life. It taught me much more about myself and about how to connect to otherpeople more than if I had been all those years learning socialization by beinglimited to only the peers in my classroom and the social influences of peerpressure and television. I learned how to make friends with people so differentthan me in a really short period of time. That kind of adaptation has served mefor life.”
My kids have learnedon this world voyage to make friends with kids without even understanding aspoken word between them. My children have walked into classrooms in the ruralschools in which neither they nor the teacher or children could communicate,and they walked in day after day, each day conquering another word, and forgingfriendships by use of smiles and pantomime. My kids’ social repertoire hasincluding making friends, bonding quickly, and enjoying new adventures with newfaces. Their souls have grown deeper as they’ve learned to say goodbye. And oneday, perhaps, they will return to these places for visit whole communities ofstrangers turned friends.
I watch my kids run and laugh hysterically as they arechased by a playful woman in her thirties who is tickling them and Ian who istrying to tie their legs together (and to the dog’s leash), without gettingknocked over by my charging three musketeers. Yes, my children are getting alearning more profound, rich, colorful life lessons in socialization than Icould have ever imagined. Ian, you may take a bow. For with your insights, Ihave kissed my socialization guilt goodbye.