Connection is an important part of our human experience. Thanks to researchers with good intent but clearly no compassion who locked lonely monkeys in cages decades ago, we know that physical touch is almost as important as food and air. More recently through much more humane and fascinating studies, we know that emotional connection is also extremely important. If you’re interested in this topic check out Brene Brown’s work as a shame researcher for starters.
So here’s the thing. Most of us think of connection as a two-party venture. I listen to you with a genuine desire to understand, and I value you and dig you in some way, and you do the same for me. Or perhaps we have an experience together in which we overcome something difficult or we genuinely laugh out loud together. I’m not talking about the polite laugh you give to the clerk at the grocery store with really bad dad humor. I mean the kind of genuine laughter that Oliver, my 1-year-old lets out when he thinks his sister is hilarious for jumping up and down making shrill noises. You know a baby’s laugh is genuine because the second they decide it’s not funny there is no faking it. They just stop. They don’t humor you with a pretend laugh. It’s full on deep belly laughing or nothing. I think this is why a baby’s laugh is one of the BEST sounds on Earth. Laughing with someone else that hard and that sincerely will make you feel connected.
But the truth is, while we do need those kinds of two-way connections in our lives, not all of our connections have to be that way. We can feel connection with anyone we want to and they do not have to reciprocate. Truly. Connection comes from your thoughts about someone. Connection is something you get to feel when you really learn all about somebody and the more intimate and vulnerable the details are the more connected you feel.
Have you ever read a biography about someone famous? Didn’t you feel a connection after learning all of that? Or if, like me, you have made a commitment to balance out your reading with at least as much TV time, have you watched the Mitt Romney Netflix Special? I feel like the missing sister in the Romney family now but they don’t have any clue about me. Just think how surprised they’ll be. I hope Ann will leave me some of her jewelry in her will.
Not always, but often when we feel a connection with someone we begin secretly cheering for them. This is why I love the TV Show Parenthood and am dying for the new season to start! The characters are so well developed that I feel totally connected to the Braverman family and I’m rooting for every one of them to find love and peace and happiness! Even when some of them make bad decisions, I’m pulling for them to get it together and do the right thing. I feel totally connected to the Bravermans and not only do they not know me, they don’t even exist in the real world.
So why should you care? I’m glad you asked. There may be people in your life who you want to feel a connection with and they may or may not always want to feel a connection with you. I’m not jumping to conclusions or anything but some of the offspring you love dearly might go through periods of life when they don’t appreciate all the love you’re bringing to them. They might view it as uncool or annoying or even oppressing and tyrannical. They may think of you the same way my daughter just described the fly in her room that’s keeping her awake. “I try to flick it away but then it just bizzes around and comes back and it’s really bothering me.” Bizz is our family’s official verb for what a fly does by the way.
What we normally do when we want desperately to be close to someone and they don’t want to be close to us is try harder. We get creative about how we interject ourselves into their space and we may think we’re being sneaky about it, but they get it. They’re on to us. All we end up doing is acting weird, which reinforces their previous thoughts about us being the annoying fly.
INSTEAD of doing that, why not try this. Remember how much you fell in love with the Romneys on Netflix unfortunately JUST AFTER the Presidential election that you’re sure he would have won had the Nation watched Mitt. Now watch the movie of your child. But without him knowing. I do this with my 8-year old Isaac who isn’t a big fan of conversations about his day, his interests or his thoughts. At least not with his Mom. So instead of getting weird I just go away and then I watch Isaac. It’s a great film and not yet on Netflix but it’s full of scenes where he plays x-box and talks to himself nearly the entire time. There is a whole portion that reports on the game Skylanders and speculative theories about what he loves about it based on research I did on the internet, at Toys R Us, and secretly through questioning his older cousins. If Isaac knew what a Skylanders expert I was he might be blown away but he’ll never know because I don’t want to turn into the fly.
One of my favorite scenes is where Isaac’s Grandmother asks him how many goals he blocked as the losing team’s goalie at the soccer game and he replies very proudly, “all but five.” You’d have to see the movie to really appreciate it but let me assure you I feel very connected with Isaac even though he doesn’t open up to me much. And he has no idea.
So please don’t throw the towel in completely on having belly-laughing two-way connections with your kiddos. You will. You did when they were very little and you will again when they get through a few things and figure life out a bit. But remember that in the mean time connection is something you CAN feel with someone else any time you want. They don’t have to participate and they don’t even have to know. Stop bizzing around and just soak up all you can learn about these monkeys and just when you let go you might be surprised how they respond.
Love your guts
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