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Thoughts on parenting a solitary child.(Don’t panic, Parents!)

” Last night I watched a wildlife documentary on Kenyan herds.

I found one thought fascinating – the voice over guy said, when describing Wildebeest “Like most herd animals, the Wildebeest is not the smartest.”

This made me think about our Village kids. ( Who, in my house, do frequently remind me of a herd of gnu, it’s true.)

But I know that many of our kids in this Village are not part of a great big secure herd. Perhaps they’re oddly-shaped, or eccentric, or introverted or loners. Perhaps they’ve been excluded so often they had just decided herdlife is not for them. Perhaps they’re not keen on team sports on or off the field.

The BBC being so rude about herd animals means that solitary ones must be smart, right? That’s good!

But this solitariness can cause us, as parents, sadness and worry. After all, where are humans without the security of company?

But I think this concern ignores one important truth about living differently. The more solitary animals are as a result of their need to rely on themselves strong, alert, resourceful, and robust. They have, sometimes, superhuman adaptions that allow them to look after themselves and to be content on their own.

And even the most solitary, has ways to seek out company when it’s needed.

This little thought ( courtesy of a loopy herd of gnu,) gave me a sort of mini-epiphany and a reminder NOT to catastrophise every teen age experience that does not fit a stereotypical mould.”

” My 13 year-old son announced yesterday that “the world really needs lots of ‘weird’ people.” His example being that if some weird person somewhere hadn’t, at some point, wondered what that thing tasted like that comes out of a chicken’s bum, then we wouldn’t be eating eggs. Wonderfully weird example but a really good point!”

‘ My cousin, who is 42 is visiting from UK is still very troubled with some aspects of her life. She sent me a message from The Pilanesberg yesterday saying, ‘I love my guide. He talked about the individuality of each animal and compared that to humans. saying if only each human was accepted for their individuality, how much happier the world would be!’ That simple thought made her feel so much better.”

” My daughter was the zebra-striped unicorn, facing backwards, on the carousel at her school. A change of school was the best thing for her. She ended up at a school, where, whether you were a pony, or a unicorn, and whichever way you faced, it was just fine.”

” My daughter is one of those wonderful children who doesn’t fit into “the box”. She’s creative, writes the most beautiful poems, and although, not solitary, prefers a small group of close friends. She is caring, loyal and has a witty sense of humour. She certainly doesn’t run with the herd. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

” It’s funny how introverts are considered absolutely normal as adults, and yet somewhat “less” as children. Why should every child want to hang around with a big, bustling crowd? Why should a child’s success be hung on their “popularity?” We’re not all “people’s people.” Nor should we be. To make being a crowd person the gold standard of social success, is ignoring the special qualities and strengths of 50% of the population!”

” I also think that within groups of teenagers there’s also huge amount of pressure to conform, there’s so much jostling for position, betrayals, disappointments, hurt feelings. There’s also toxic pressure when the peer group has bad habits … often a teen’s first introduction to some very destructive habits (drugs, booze, cigarettes,) come from being “in a group,” and trying very hard to “fit in.” Instead of making our children feel as if something is wrong with them if their phones aren’t buzzing madly with invitations, we should rather re-inforce the wonderful alternatives for someone who is less social. Hobbies like reading, writing, painting, creating … anything … model-building, music, coding, boardgames … those all could suit more solitary people. A more solitary person could build stronger bonds with family. They could have a strong bond with a pet. ALL of these things have value – which when judged against the more superficial, do not get valued in the way they deserve.”

” I think as parents, our generation, has a tendency to over react. Many of us panic at the first indication of non-conformity, in our children. We are quick to label. Quick to worry. If our children aren’t like everyone else’s, our own insecurity pops up, sometimes before our children even feel bad about whatever is scaring us, themselves. Our own anxiety can make a child who might have been very happy with his or her quiet life, feel worried and inadequate. ”

I gave up trying to be part of the herd before I hit double digits. It has its lonely moments but dammit, I won’t lower my weirdness to fit in!!! My kids have learnt to find their own ways as well. We’re off the wall and proud of it. None of this namby-pamby herd mentality in our family!”

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