Aisling seemed disconsolate, which is only what one should expect of a person doing algebra in late June, I thought, but I soon became aware that there was something else bothering her.
"I feel like I don't have any friends," she finally said sadly after much prompting on my part.
I am really sympathetic to this. This is, in my opinion, a symptom of summertime, when we aren't doing any school activities like Shakespeare class or trips to the art museum. But it's also one of the negatives of the homeschool experience: there's never as much time to spend with friends as there would be in traditional schooling, but there's also less opportunity to make friends.
I feel for my girls, I really do. Meelyn has a lot of friends, but unlike her public school counterparts, her friendships aren't in a basic geographical area that tends to be within a few square miles of our home; her friends are scattered all over the greater Indianapolis area. Aisling's problem is somewhat different in that, while there are a BUNCH of girls in our homeschool group who are Meelyn's age, there aren't so many who are Aisling's. It's for that reason that I decided to join an additional homeschool group for this coming year. It only meets once a month, but it is based on social activities and there are quite a few girls who are Aisling's age, many of whom she already knows. As she develops relationships with those girls, we can pick up some extra time with them from there.
Anyway, my heart just melted in pity for poor Aisling. Fourteen can be a hard age. You feel kind of grown-uppish, but there's still so much you can't do, if you're our daughter, anyway. Like, we won't let her go and roam around a shopping mall or go to the movies without chaperonage. We won't let her glue herself to a screen large or small and do either instant or text messaging. We won't let her do MySpace or any of that other online social networking stuff. In short, our house rules make it very hard for her to even communicate with the few friends she does have, and I hate that, I really do. I'm probably the only mother in the world who actively encourages her teenage daughters to call their friends on the telephone.
Aisling has one friend who lives about half an hour away and she asked me if I thought it would be okay to invite that friend over next week when we get back from CousinFest '09. Could her friend come and sleep over and go to the pool with us?
"But I haven't talked to her for about a month," Aisling added sadly. "Do you think she even remembers me?"
"Of course she remembers you," I said. "You call her up. If she can come, we can go pick her up and bring her back home. Half an hour isn't very far at all." I said this with a slight interior wince, remembering that my dearest high school friend Jennifer, who often comments here at InsomniMom, lived about ten minutes across New Castle from my house -- before we could drive, it wasn't a big deal to get together. Poor Aisling. I feel like a sucky failure of a mother for not really working to make sure that she sees or at least talks to her friends on a regular basis. I'm so secure in my own wealth of friendships. Have I been selfishly lazy in not providing opportunities for my girls to make and keep their own friendships?
Oh, I'm so afraid the answer is yes. So sorry.
So the day went on and pretty soon, it was about nine o'clock and the dishes were done and we were all tired and ready to drape ourselves over the furniture to watch an episode of Buffy. The telephone range and my husband answered it and lo and behold, it was the very friend whom Aisling wanted to invite over next week! And she was calling to invite Aisling over to an impromptu party for today, from 11:00 until 3:00!
"Mama, can I go? Will you drive me?" Aisling looked at me with such bright eyes, such hope, that I had to clear my throat before replying "Yes! Of course I can" because all of a sudden, I felt like I'd swallowed a marshmallow, one of the big kind you use for s'mores, not the little kind you use for hot chocolate. My beautiful girl.
So today, Aisling is going to a party. And also today, I am going to turn over a new leaf: I am going to MAKE SURE that Aisling talks to and sees her friends more often. Sweet Meelyn, too. Hold me to it.