When my boys were little, they went to a daycare center that had a great reputation but when they moved from the baby room to the toddler room, something started to rub me the wrong way. The teachers just weren’t as patient, weren’t as nurturant. They started bragging about how well the kids handled things on their own- from pouring their own juice and washing their hands using some weird 27 step process to “self soothing” from hurt feelings by throwing themselves on the ladybug rug. Joey was 24 months old… not heading to college… I didn’t get why “independence” was the goal. I didn’t plan on him moving out anytime soon. We didn’t last there very long.
Society is in a hurry for our kids to grow up and be independent but misses out on connection. Relationships are a powerful tool for societal change. Want to be radical? Step in. Touch people. Share feelings. Show vulnerability. We empower connection when we value what has long been devalued- gentleness, empathy, sensitivity, relatedness.
New research says that one of the unforeseen negative side effects of getting our kids “connected” on the internet is that it disconnects them from real life relationships.They have tons of “friends” but no one to ride bikes with. The teen pregnancy rate is at an all time low…because cell phones are great birth control. Relationships that occur only in cyberspace are “safe” but also devoid of physical touch and emotional responsiveness. How can we learn to be in a healthy relationship without dating?
Competition, greed, shame and aggression keep us apart. Devaluing emotions and sucking it up and settling for feeling numb keep us apart and keep us stuck.
At some point I realized that exercise made me healthier- it kept me flexible and strong and lowered my stress so I made it a priority. I put it on the calendar. Then I noticed that it wasn’t the only thing my body craved. I needed more time with my friends. I am blessed to spend more hours than most in intimate conversation with humans…IRL! But a high percentage of my connection was caretaking- professionally as a therapist or personally as a mom. I prioritized my friendships. I started putting friendship on the calendar as a goal. I choose actually being in the same room with people who were available to care deeply for me. Amazingly- while exercise is great, nothing deepens my capacity to serve authentically like nurturing my own need for connection.
I counterculture, progressively, radically challenge you to choose relationships. I prescribe more intimacy. Go out to coffee or have dinner. If you can’t see them call rather than text. Build space for friendships into your marriage. Model friendship for your kids. Rather than trying to control screen time, incentivise community involvement. Take your kids to their friends. Invite someone over you want to know better. Visit someone you miss. Strong friendships are mind altering, consciousness raising, and compassion building. Rock the world… go play with your friends.