We had co-op today. A very loose, casual style of co-op, that lends itself more to a social gathering/playdate/field trip kind of thing. This group of parents have meshed pretty well, with a core that tries to show up every week. It’s good for us – it’s pushing us to become more active members of the homeschool community.
I watched the Engineer and his friends happily work together to build a small hut out of planks, and I realized that he doesn’t need socialization. Not really. He has the team work thing down, he’s fairly well-mannered, his bossy tendencies are mostly under control, and he makes friends easily. He’s doing great! I, on the other hand …
I’m a hermit. I’m an introvert. I do NOT do social gatherings well, even when it’s one that I enjoy with people I have a lot in common with.
I decided early on when we found ourselves homeschooling that it was my responsibility to put us out there to make friends. I didn’t want my socially struggling child to live up to the homeschool stereotype of weird homeschooler. I wanted him to be comfortable in the presence of people, unlike me. So I’m pushing myself, pushing my limits to help him grow as an individual. No one said I had to like it.
At some point in my life I decided that I just wasn’t really a people person and that I was ok with that. I’m fine staying home most days, and my never-ending pile of work only stacks higher if we go out. Before kids, I was very hermit like: I routinely spent my weekend (with Mr. Genius) logged into a video game running raids with people I’ve never even met. I miss that, by the way. Computer gaming seems to be going the way of the dinosaur.
I rarely go out with friends, and we almost never do girls’ night out. There are lots of reasons for that besides my own hermit tendencies, but I have to admit, it’s comfortable. I read a book, we watch a movie, I get some work done – I don’t go out on the town.
That’s a bad example for my kids. Until they decide people vs not people, it’s our job to get them out of the house and help them to make friends. I don’t say it in front of them but I hate it. It’s a part of my job that’s hard for me even if it’s fun. As a kid, I struggled with the nuances of dealing with people – I had to learn to read body language and nuance the hard way. It’s especially confusing because I’m fairly empathic and I’ll pick up on how people really feel while their words and expressions contradict that. So I have to decide: which confusing input do I select? Do I respond to what I’m hearing or the emotional flavor that I’m sensing?
Am I saying the right thing? Am I putting my foot in my mouth yet again? Did I hog the conversation too much or did I participate enough to seem engaged? It’s all confusing and annoying. All of the things that come naturally to neurotypicals are a consciously thought out process for me. If I stick with a formula, people like me better. If I try to act pleasant and engaging, people will talk to me instead of my normal hovering on the edges of the conversations and smiling vacuously.
When people ask me the dreaded socialization question I want to laugh. The kids are fine – I am the problem. It’s not you, it’s me!
I wish sometimes that I had some sort of label to slap on myself for this. A diagnosis of social failure, if you will. I’m not being rude, I’m just trying to get through a complex social situation with pitfalls and landmines around every corner. Social interactions are not easy or natural – they are hard work. Which is why I’m so exhausted after trying to people for a while.
Thankfully, our kids seem to be fairly neurotypical around people. The Engineer struggled a lot early on, but we helped him learn the nuances that he should have picked up instinctively. He’s doing better! I’m very proud of him – today had a few rough moments and bobbles, but he did a great job. There’s hope!
I guess that this is just another negative part of being neurodivergent. Average people don’t over think their responses to a question – they just answer. Average people don’t have to figure out what subtle cues people are using because they just respond to them without even thinking about it. It just is.
At the very least, I’m showing my kids that you shouldn’t shy away from something that you struggle with. I’m being a good example – a sacrificial lamb of sorts. See kids? Even when you hate something, you persevere and keep trying, and eventually you get better at it. Sort of. Or you grow up enough to say you don’t have to do it anymore.
So yes, I confess. I am that weird, unsocialized homeschooler. But not because of homeschooling, nope! It’s because I’m neurodivergent.