Last school year, our family joined a new homeschool co-op. We had been in so many co-ops prior to this one, because I was looking for a group with boys the same age as my son, who shared his interests, and we were on a quest to find a group to fill our need. I had grown weary of meeting new people and learning new ways only to determine it was time to move, but I was hopeful about this new group. A friend, who had a son my boy’s age, had referred me to this group, because there were a lot of boys in that age group. In the other co-ops, there always seemed to be a bunch of young girls my daughter’s age, but no boys my son’s age. They were always a little older or a little younger.
The first day of homeschool co-op is no different than the first day of anything: first day at a new job, first day of public school, first time in a new church. There are new people to meet, new systems to learn, new facilities to navigate. We made it to our class and my son settled in among a group of 6 other boys his age. My friend, who had referred us to this group, and her family had been transferred, so my boy was in a group of new kids with no familiar faces. He was eager to make friends and tried his best to blend in, but it’s always hard coming into a new group. Elementary boys are usually obsessed with legos, video games, sports and Star Wars. My son loves all things history and military. He would try to strike up a conversation with the other boys, but very quickly they ran out of things to talk about. He didn’t give up, though, and each week, thereafter, made an effort to try and find something in common with the new guys. We talked about getting to know what they liked to do and not just thinking and talking about his own favorite things to do. He persevered. Over time the boys got to know him and were kind, but whenever it was time to pick a friend for an activity he was always the odd man out.
We prayed. We prayed God would help him make friends. We talked about the art of conversation and not talking on and on about a topic when no one is showing any interest. I prayed for a special friend, who shared his interests. We talked about what it means to be a good friend and how it feels to be the new guy. I shared with my son how I had quite a few friends, but really only one or two who were close friends. These close friends were so special, because whenever I would see them we would converse as if we had never been apart. I tried to explain how close friends were rare gems. We talked about how Jesus loved all the disciples, but was especially close to a couple of them. It was a difficult time, but God used it to teach us many lessons.
Last summer at a parent meeting, we met another family who had just joined our co-op. I was talking to the dad, who was asking about our kids, and I was sharing about my son’s love of history. The dad immediately grabbed his wife and they told me how much their son loved history. It was a moment I will never forget, because they talked about how their son often had trouble connecting with other boys because his interests were so different. We brought the boys together and said we just discovered they had a shared a love of history. The boys immediately began talking and the connection was amazing. I later said to the mom that her son was an answer to my prayers.
This year a new little boy joined our co-op. He was so excited to be around so many boys, but I saw the same thing happening with him. The other boys were checking him out and there was a period of getting to know each other, which cannot be rushed. The boys have all been kind, but making new friends takes time. And finding a close friend is a gift from God. I saw the mom struggle as she watched her son try to meet new guys, and I was able to share my experience with her. I was also able to remind my son of his experience being the new guy and encouraged him to make this year’s new guy feel welcome. Making friends is a process, and we grow in that process. Do you remember being the new person in a group?