I trick myself into being an extrovert (and other introverted homeschool mom thoughts on social engagements).

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an unreasonable amount of fear of social events. Even in high school, I would avoid parties and groups of peers in preference of spending time with just one friend. It wasn’t a rational fear, nor was it one that I could easily justify.

If you knew me then, but weren’t close to me then what I just said would not make sense. Because I seemed to have confidence to spare. I put on an excess of animation in public to mask any weakness I felt.

Getting married helped this a bit because on one hand when I was with my husband at a social engagement, I felt like I at least had one person “on my team.” One person who I could retreat to.

But when I became a mother, and the number of people in my home (my alone, safe place) began to grow, my fear grew right along with it. Maybe I’m an extreme case, or maybe I’m just putting into words. Either way, I know I’m not the only one who has panic inducing fears of having to “mix” with others at social events.

Facing my panic has taken years, but I finally came to the place where I could at least separate healthy excitement from unhealthy anxiety. Do you know what I mean?

I won’t deny that my happiest place is alone with a cup of coffee and a great book. I feel recharged whenever I get to drive a-l-o-n-e in the car for 15 minutes. And introverted or not, a homeschool mom has the unique challenge of being around her own offspring 24 hours a day, during all 4 seasons, 12 months, 52 weeks, and 365 days. To say that she is over-peopled would be an understatement.

IMG_0650

This was especially true for me when my kids were babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. I was drained, over-touched, under-refreshed, and desperate for both alone time and adult conversation but only with one or two close friends. The thought of church functions, hobby groups, sports events, extended family gatherings, and even seeing someone at the grocery store would put me into a protective position which made me feel somehow attacked before I was even outside my home.

But all this has been slowly changing. It finally struck me recently while I was at a LIFE group meeting with other homeschool moms why I’ve been able to not only survive social outings without being drained (like to the point where I would need two days to recover from a two-hour evening event) but thrive. Something major has recently changed all of this for me, and I’ll go through all the possibilities – but there is one main trick. (I’ll save that until the end.)

  1. My kids are older and less touchy and less demanding.
  2. I use fewer words throughout the day, mostly because I take the time to write out everything for them the night before. (Remember my back to school series where I wrote that I was going to give Bullet Journals for my kids a try? Well, let me tell you that it works and it’s the single most important thing in our day for consistency and productivity.)
  3. I have claimed space and time separate from my role as mommy. During the day, usually around 10 am, I take time to do my own thing. I write, plan, read, meal plan, etc. I don’t wait until they are asleep, I don’t plug in a screen, and I don’t set them up with an activity. It is a part of our norm for them to know how to be independent, self-directed, and respectful of my adultness.
  4. I usually sleep through the night. (I know this won’t be true come June/July, but for the time being it is a blessing.) Sleep affords me with the stamina and energy source I need to be fully myself in a group of people outside my family.
  5. The fact that I have simply spent more time in the motherhood club has afforded me more confidence in my own skin outside my home. So when I bump into an acquaintance at the grocery store, I can wear the same face I do at home. I don’t feel the need to make up for my weaknesses. I am comfortable owning them to other people, which has majorly boosted my ability to be at ease in public.

All those growth points are great, but here’s the trick that has turned my drained introverted shell of a homeschool mom into a woman who can not only survive but also enjoy and thrive on a social engagement: I consciously smile at whoever is talking to me. I just smile as much as I possibly can. Sounds silly right? It could sound fake too, but it isn’t. It really energizes me. I can’t describe how much more engaged I feel with whoever I’m talking to – whether one-on-one in conversation or listening to someone talk to a group of people. I smile, keep eye contact, and I stay conscious of what my facial and body language says.

As I drove home that evening, the smile was still lingering on my face for no profound reason and I found myself thinking that I’m not only energized but happy and thankful for the opportunity to hear from other moms. It is a gift to fellowship and my fear of being drained by other people was robbing me of the joy.

Meet Cara 1

So, I listen and smile. And I remind myself to keep smiling. Not in a goofy, out of context way, because there are certain topics that a smile isn’t appropriate for, but I make every effort to pour encouragement into every engagement.

And a simple smile seems to do the trick.

Productive without pressure, and joys without regrets. January 2016

Focus on Function don't pine after perfection for B2S

On one hand, I can’t believe January is over. We are already 1/12 of the way through the year. I don’t feel like I accomplished a “January” amount of fresh-starts and goals.

But on the other hand, I’m thankful January is over. I love the lived in feeling of an everyday life. I do enjoy reflections, projections, and motivations for personal change, but like with everything – too much of a good thing is just too much.

So, here at the end of a good start to the New Year, I have a few things to share about what I’ve learned: January 2016 edition.

1. I can’t stand reading a fiction ebook. I had no idea this was the case before attempting to read Five Brides for our book club this month. Non-fiction ebook? Sure. Digital cookbook? Love it. But this experience reading fiction on a screen has made me want to throw an old fashion tantrum.

2. I have learned a way to trick myself into being energized by (some) social engagements. This is a huge one. I’m writing a whole separate post on it because it has kind of changed everything about me. From introvert to functioning extrovert. Okay, maybe not that far, but close. I no longer severely dread having to be in public, which I used to do even with close family and friends. I can now leave an engagement feeling lifted up and not drained to the core. I am able to reflect positively on my contribution to the situation without regretting all the ways I deflected, avoided, or stalled.

3. Kale salads are kind of my pregnancy “thing.” I’ve been trying really hard to eat primarily vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats. (I got this book from the library to help me understand this way of eating.) I’ve shared my new Pinterest love for finding recipes on my Facebook page too. It’s amazing what a great recipe can do for my overall well-being.

Photo from MMD

Photo from MMD

4. I made a list of books I want to read in 2016, and I thought it would feel stifling. I thought I would rebel against a predetermined plan for what to read, but instead I feel free from the overwhelm of “there are so many good books to read – how can I ever choose the next one?” feeling.

5. I’m loving the podcast What Should I Read Next by Anne Bogel. I like hearing people talk about the books they’ve liked, disliked, and what they should read. I’ve never been a huge fiction reader because I don’t know which books at the library would be worth my time (I learned quickly that borrowing 12 titles only to return all 12 unread isn’t worth the effort). This podcast helps enormously, and Anne is just plain pleasant to listen to.

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6. The pros and cons of Apple products: The iPhone camera is highly superior to other phone cameras. This lesson learned has been a painful one. I’m still working through the transition. That said, we are also happily ditching Apple. We tried to love our Mac Mini, but it is just too slow. The operating system doesn’t allow for the level of management we are used to – for instance we can’t schedule system updates, we can’t see when programs were last opened or for how long they ran, and it doesn’t have a great file structure. I do, however, love the track pad and multiple desktop functions, but those things don’t weigh as much as the things I dislike. So, we are saying goodbye.

7. Educational theories: I’ve been researching and evaluating educational theories for about a year. I was introduced to Classical Conversations (CC) in February 2015, and I honestly had had no exposure to the classical model before that time. Being the hungry-to-understand-everything person that I am, I set out to tackle this option and either determine if it A.) Was for us. OR B.) Was not for us. With a solid why for whichever choice we made. But I still can’t figure out what is right for us and it’s consuming a lot of my mental space. We are planning on attending another CC informational meeting soon, and I’ve set the deadline for decision for March 30th because we leave for the Great Homeschool Convention on March 31st.

8. I finally got to start a new Bullet Journal in a real Dotted Leuchtturm 1917. To describe the love I have for this journal would be to take way too much space and time. Let me say, trust me, the dots are amazing. Please, for the love, try the dots. (If you love writing in a journal or specifically Bullet Journals, then you really need to try this journal.)

What I’m reading:

Posts that relate:

Things that are making me happy:

  • Seafoam. I don’t think I can say this is a “OK” pregnancy craving, but I can say that I love it. It’s a good thing it’s expensive or I would eat way too much of it.
  • Downton Abbey. No explanation needed.
  • Read Aloud Revival Membership! The Master’s classes to be exact. Learning how to create book list that is unique to us and the Education in an Hour classes have been excellent. 
  • Baby kicks. I know it’s probably because this little one is #4 and I’m really used to the feelings, but it’s been wonderful to remember that I’m carrying life inside me!
  • Indoor grill. I’ve been making grilled chicken more lately for dinners. It’s amazing what a simple tool can do to the taste of food. I love grilled food.
  • My toddler in glasses. Pictures coming soon to Instagram. (And I cut his hair too!)

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That’s it. I hope you had an enjoyable January. Productive without pressure, and joys without regrets.

This post is linked with Emily Freeman's Let's Share What We Learned post. Click on her name to check out the original post. Also, there are affiliate links in this post, read my disclosure to find out more about that. And finally, subscribe to TheHomeLearner to hear more about home life, learning, parenting, and more for free - delivered straight to your inbox. Thanks for reading!

 

Assigning New Friends as “Best” Friends :: Warning Signs of Loneliness in Kids, Part 5

Joe under horse

When my daughter was little, going to the park was never about playing on the swings or sliding down the slide – it was always: who she would play with.

Who will be there? My daughter would beg.

I don’t know, you’ll have to wait and see. You can always make a new friend. I would reassure.

Her little extroverted side would shine in this setting. She was not shy to pick a girl about her size and introduce herself and ask: Do you want to play?

On our way home from the park, she would ask me about her new “best” friend – when will I see her again? Can we have her over to our house? Her excitement from gaining a new friend was bittersweet. I felt so bad when I would have to say, I don’t know her parents. We don’t know their phone number. You may never see her again.

She was always eager to give the “best” of herself to someone new.

Telling her over and over that she may never see that new friend again hurt her, and eventually it taught her to hold back. The hurt didn’t change her from outgoing to shy, but it stole her joy. She started to recognize the loss from giving herself was greater than the gain of a new “best” friend that she would never see again.

As she grew up, I noticed a slight change in her attitude toward making new friends. She was still eager to play, but less excited about finding a new friend. The questions turned to friends she knows are in her life on purpose. After leaving the park, she would ask: when will I see my cousins again? When will we play with friends from church?

One day after watching her play with “new” friends, I saw her tire of it. She came over and sat down next to me and said that she didn’t want to play anymore. This is when I realized that the whole time she had been questioning about these friends, she wasn’t angling for a large quantity of friends – she had been sizing up the quality of her friendships. The time and energy necessary to play well was being given to people she would never see again, and she didn’t like that thought. She wanted to invest herself, she wanted to build something bigger than just a one-time-deal.

She wanted companionship.

Joe and Graham at Butterfly Garden

After seeing this change in her, I knew it was on me to find the solution.

She was lonely, and the solution was going to cost me more than just a quick trip to the park. I would have to find a way to build consistent relationships into our routine. Being a homeschool family means we have the freedom and responsibility to socialize on our own terms. It means we rely on each other to learn and discover how to make lasting friendships.

And not too long ago, I came to the realization that I didn’t know how to do this for myself.

So I’ve put myself on the same path to friendships as my daughter. We talk about it often. How can we be a good friend? Who are the people that we want to know better? How can we balance planning for established friendships and inventing new ones?

Am I modeling this commitment to relationships?

I want our home to be a safe place for my children to let their emotions show. For that to be true all the time, I have to be willing to encourage their excitement at appropriate times and in appropriate ways. This goes back to the root of loneliness: the need for support and companionship. And the first place a child will have this need met is at home. So am I happy to see my kids? Do I smile when receiving them? Showing feeling and even excitement to be with them will build a good foundation for understanding what being a good friend is supposed to be like.

I don’t have to be my daughter’s best friend, but I can show her what one looks like.

Need to catch up on this series? Find links to Parts 1-4 here.