What does it mean to be close to someone? Is it a person with whom you share secrets? The person who makes you smile the most? The person you’d call for bail money? And what role does proximity play? We tend to feel close to the people we see the most, whether or not that’s really true. How do you even gauge whether or not you’re growing closer to others?
I do know that you shouldn’t depend on social media to tell you. Close cannot be judged by how many people wish you happy birthday on Facebook, even thought I totally look to see how many people told me happy birthday on Facebook. Then I compare that number to the number of birthday wishes the next person who pops up in my feed had. I will never remember the number the people who got fewer HBD notes than me, but I will feel bad about myself for a couple of weeks every time someone gets more.
And, again, to be clear, I am talking about the totally vapid statistic of Facebook happy birthday messages. Clearly I have problems with accurate valuation of interpersonal relationships.
Most of us know we WANT meaningful connections with others. We’re just not always sure how to go about it. And should we focus on our families or those around us? It’s probably both, right? Family, friends, f(r)amily (you know, friends who might as well be family)–they’re all important.
My children’s pediatrician once told me that no one needs more than four or five real friends. Anyone beyond that and you’re just talking about acquaintances. Acquaintances are nice, but they’re not really necessary. I thought that was pretty funny, but also probably true. Can any of us be really close to more than 4 or 5 people outside our families?
To be close means to be connected on the inside of our lives. It means knowledge about mundane details, but also about delving into the pain and ugly and hurt and the very real lives of others.
Close is what keeps us from drowning in the dark places of our minds. And it binds those we love to us in ways that provide anchors in the storm. Without nurturing our every day connections to others, we’re really wasting our time.
Our relationships are the one thing we do on earth that can actually reverberate forever.
Everyone over whom you have influence (friends, spouse, kids, employees, students, neighbors, coworkers, lady-at-the-dentist) learns a little something about how to connect with others every time they interact with you. YOU become a part of that person’s life experiences and their further interactions with others. Your words and actions, be they encouraging, damaging or somewhere in between, will bounce from person to person to person infinitely. Close is a pretty big deal.
Of course, everyone has to eat and most of us have to earn money to do that so don’t quit your job just yet to spend all of your time with your kids spreading love and joy. Bills have got to be paid.
So how do we grow closer to the people who matter to us in a practical way? And where is the balance between the people we love and the people we just have to interact with on a daily basis? Well, I have some ideas.
Three years ago my husband and I moved into a smaller house with our four kids, started homeschooling them, and started traveling to see all 50 States. You could do that. We certainly feel closer than we did before.
But I acknowledge that’s all a bit weird and definitely not for everyone.
Fortunately, we have also learned a whole lot of smaller, simpler acts of closeness that reconnect us to each other and to the community in which we live. We learned, at the deepest level, that moments of play, thoughtfulness, and caring made us more open to not just our family members but our relationships in general.
Because I like making up games (see: 50 States Adventure), I’ve made a month long calendar of activities to help foster closer relationships. Most of them can be applied to any relationship–kids, spouse, friends. Some of them are about kindness toward total strangers. All of these small choices to connect can build better bridges between ourselves and those around us.
My family will be playing along and I encourage you to do so, too. If you don’t like one activity, switch it. The idea is to be intentional, make memories, and connect to the people in your life. I guarantee that at the end of the 31 days, even if some of your activities are a bust, you won’t think they were a waste of time.
Check off your activities, make notes about what was fun (and what wasn’t), and jot down some ideas you come with on your own.
Oh, and when you get to Pajama Adventure–that’s just what it sounds like. Wear your pajamas and do something in the car. We like to get drive through biscuits and Starbucks while the children are trapped in their car seats. Parenting tip bonus right there.
Click on the pic below for a free printable calendar for 31 Days to a Closer F(r)amily.