My daughter has been struggling with how connected, or unconnected, our family is these days. I have been trying to explain to her that as kids grow into their teen years it is normal for them to become their own independent people with their own interests and seeking out their own spaces. Interestingly, her thoughts have been resonating with me and I find that I am learning something from her. I find myself thinking of the commandment “love thy neighbor as you would love thyself.”
As we move through our lives it is true that we all develop our own interests and connections. This is a normal path of life. When does it become normal that we should build in separation from those in our inner circle? I understand that there is a capacity component. But to my daughter’s point, do we have an obligation to maintain a certain level of connectivity to family and loved ones? I reflect upon myself here. I live a couple of short hours from my cousin, yet I have not seen him in years. Nor have I spoken to him. This is one of my great regrets. How is it that in my busy life I am unable to maintain a connection with my own family just a short distance away?
We can grow this concept when we start looking at the model of social media. I am a light user of these tools. I by no stretch of the imagination claim to be a power user. Quite the opposite in that I abhor the idea of putting a lot of my personal information out on the internet for others to see. However, The model of growing connections and building a web of “friends” seems like a brilliant concept. The question I would ask is why are we waiting for the internet for this practice? Why do so few people build these networks in their face-to-face lives? I understand that the personal interactions can be more time consuming, intimidating, and threatening. They also can be much more meaningful, rewarding, and long lasting. It is a lot more difficult to ‘unfriend’ a person you have a personal connection with then it is to on the internet. You can’t do it with the click of a button. Ironically, it is also hard to ask a friend on the internet for a cup of sugar or to give them a plate of cookies when you are done backing.
So, where does this leave us? Yes, people do grow in separate directions. Yes, people do have different interests and need their own space. But I think my daughter has a valid point. Particularly with people such as family and those close to us, we need to invest in these relationships. We need to build those networks of friends in our personal lives. These will fill us with the sustaining things that we need when we are down or lonely. These will give us the people to celebrate with when we are experiencing a win. And they will give us someone to share a cookie with.