Getting out of the house

I am, by habit and inclination, a solitary and sedentary person. I’m quite happy to sit inside at my computer, or with a book. It generally requires an invitation from somebody else before I will go out. So sometimes I forget how important, and how fun, it is to actually go out and do things, especially for children.

Yesterday Elspeth and I bestirred ourselves to go out and see a couple of friends and their young children. Despite the cold, we went to a park and playground, where it was wet and muddy. With a few balls brought by Emma, the playground equipment, and their imaginations, the four kids had a fantastic time and completely wore themselves out over a three hour period.

On a side note, I observed that Elspeth’s social skills are getting better again; she referred to almost everybody present by name, and addressed people directly.

But it wasn’t just the kids who had fun. When you go out with other parents, especially those whose kids are around the same age as yours, your discussions have an element of sympathy and understanding. We are all doing the same things: parenting and studying, and looking to the future! I enjoy the chat, I enjoy the time out with friends, almost as much as Elspeth does!

Being social – or not

That’s Elspeth in purple way off to the left.

Yesterday I took Elspeth and Evelyn to the birthday party of a little friend of ours, Oliver. He was turning three, and in his honour several small people assembled in a park to play.

I was watching the children play, and noticed once again that Elspeth is a stand-offish child. She is always a little apart, rarely interacting with other children. While the other kids played on the playground equipment, Elspeth walked around the edge, balancing on the planking around the outside. She isn’t violent or antagonistic; she just seems to prefer to play alone, or with one or two trusted people. It is something which has worried me a little in the past.

I recall being the same as a child, and in truth that tendency has never really left me. I’m not a fan of big groups, crowds, or strangers. I have always preferred intimacy, small groups of well-known friends, or solitude.

Watching Elspeth makes me wonder if I should be worried about her lack of social interaction, and what – if anything – I should do about it. Seeing, as I do, myself reflected in her behaviour, makes me feel better about it. I managed. I still manage. I am happy with how I am. I am capable of communicating for purposes of work or study, I can handle everyday situations like grocery shopping or calling my local council. There is no reason that, with some time and practice, Elspeth couldn’t also get used to doing those things.

I think, having reflected on my own characteristics, I should be less concerned about seeing them in Elspeth. It’s okay to be a loner, despite the stigma often attached to it. It’s not something that needs to change; it’s just who she is. It’s who I am. And I’m okay with that.

Respect versus Interest

I don’t often ask a lot of personal questions. I generally assume that if somebody wants me to know something, they’ll tell me. I have tended to regard this as a form of respect and politeness, and I never wanted to appear nosey or insensitive. But the end result is negative, and twofold:

1) I now I have some quite close friends whom I really know very little about.

2) I sometimes get the feeling people think I’m not interested in them, and that perceived lack of interest is reciprocated.

My problem is that I still feel awkward asking what I regard as personal questions, and my definition of that is quite broad. I might not ask a near-stranger about things like: their health problems, their relationship, their family, their financial situation, their religious views, their political leanings… and so on. That means I’m often stuck with general conversation like “How are you?” and then I… stop.

And because I don’t delve right into those issues, the friendship may progress for quite a while based on trivialities, and eventually there comes a point in time where it becomes silly to start asking those personal questions.

“So, I’ve known you for three years, and now I’m going to ask what your partner does for a living. You do have a partner, right?”

No. Silly.

So, I suppose I must work on my social skills, and learn to stretch my funny little boundaries. Don’t be surprised if I start asking weird questions in the near future. Things you might assume I know already, just because we’re friends, but which in truth I never quite got around to asking about.

I just hope you don’t think I’m being rude…