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Lessons from my well-socialized kids

Yesterday, while talking to a mom outside my son's school, I made the observation that whatever our misgivings about particular elements of our children's education, their opinion was what really counts in the end. Especially at age 4. It doesn't matter how I feel, what matters is that my 4 year old is having fun, learning, excited, and gets to see his friends.

And mine is. It kind of amazes me actually. Because I was definitely not that kid. My son is in many ways...well, me. But in other--very important--ways he is unlike me to the point where he is unrecognizable to me. That push-pull sometimes clouds my judgment in how to handle him.

I'm sure some of the readers of my blog remember me in preschool. They may even beg to differ with my account. It's just a general feeling. Very few specifics are in the memory banks. I remember some cardboard blocks painted to look like bricks. Floor mats with wooden gym equipment for tunnels and slides. I remember singing lots of songs. An old button-up shirt for painting.

My memories of preschool are mostly negative though. Or, at least, "emotion neutral" so that they are distinctly not positive. Kindergarten, too. I don't have some happy longing to return to my childhood. And watching The Roosevelts on PBS has made me realize it more. I never liked my peers in some of the same ways. I recall a few friends I mostly related to, but I also never really cared. I much preferred playing pretend baseball in the backyard of my grandmother's house or watching tv or running errands out in the world. I wasn't excited to go to school to play with friends.

It's something that has come to haunt my adulthood as a "recovering" introvert. I have to go out of my way to make friends...not because I'm anti-social. I'm plenty friendly and people generally like me and I like conversation. But it still can be tedious, doesn't come naturally, and requires lots of energy from me.

So I totally understand when my son comes home from a couple of hours of preschool exhausted. All that learning and playing is hard work. But I also don't understand his affinity for waiting outside the doors each day to go chase other boys and girls or the way he seems pre-occupied with socializing. It's a weird concept for me who still to this day prefers to run alone, quietly read a book, and not be down at the pub making small talk with other people.

That's been one of the nice side effects of having kids though. It's forced me to talk to other parents. Forced me to socialize. Forced me out of my bubble to connect to other people. I've joined clubs and groups and most definitely am not a traditional "joiner." But I also feel better for it. It builds a network and does make one feel a part of a community.

I admire the way my daughter can walk up to strangers and be a social butterfly. I certainly never could do that. Oh, I've always been precocious don't get me wrong. But it wasn't out of some deep, genuine "I want to make a new friend."

There's something about these little balls of energy who just want to connect with others that I find so...roundly human. It encourages me in every sense of the word...I think they're probably ahead of the game in life from where I once stood. But it also inspires me to want to be as bold and confident in my interactions. There's something about watching my kids see another group of kids and run off to join them without hesitation.

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