“But how will Soleil make friends? How will she ‘socialize’?”
It’s not a bad question. Given that we’re always on the move, and that Soleil is an only child, I can understand why people worry. Truthfully, we worry. Out of all the questions we get, this topic has probably garnered more conversations between Tree and me than all the others put together.
Usually the questions come around five minutes after we’ve explained to someone for the first time that we don’t have a fixed home, that we’re always traveling. Before we had Sol, the most common question was how we made money. And went the bathroom. But now that we have an RV and a little person aboard, people want to know much more. Presumably, they want to know if a couple dirtbags traveling in an old motorhome can responsibly take care of a child.
What about her doctor appointments? How does she get her vaccines? What about her education? Wait a minute, how will she ever have FRIENDS?!
Look how lonely she looks. Cruel parents.
I don’t take offense to the questions because I know 99% of the time, they come from a good place. People are concerend for Soleil’s welfare, how could I be upset about that? And I understand that our lifestyle is, quite literally, extra-ordinary. Most people don’t know many other families living in vehicles intent on driving around the world, so there’s little personal reference beyond us. We’re kind of a freaky experiment. (Yet, as much as I’d like to say we’re like Lewis and Clark, braving a new frontier, we’re not alone. Check out Bumfuzzle, Bodeswell, A2Z, Advodna, and other traveling families I’m not thinking of right now).
Yet, so far, Soleil makes friends despite our suspect transience.
Granted, we make an effort.
Take these girls we met in Yosemite, Sophia and Cassidy. They were camped just a couple sites down, so Soleil and I invited them to come jump in puddles with us. I mentioned that they should ask their parents first, and for some reason, I assumed that these 5 and 7 year old girls would do just that. Whoops.
Sometimes she meets kids while we’re out climbing, which makes her day go from good to GREAT.
Here she is reading a story to future crusher Theo, pro-climber Beth Rodden’s adorable boy. I like to think these two will be climbing partners some day.
We almost always meet kids at the park.
But, more than anything, she bonds with our friends’ kids. It seems so many of our friends got a late start in life, too–Peter Pan syndrome?–so Soleil has a gaggle of ‘cousins’ (real and extended) to keep up with.
Like the McGuire gang in Mammoth…
And the Lorenzo boys in Vegas….
And the Giddens girls in Kernville….
Okay, the below photo may be one of my favorite pictures of all time. It’s frickin’ hilarious. I can just picture these three girls giggling over it in 20, 40, 60+ years from now.
There’s no doubt that it’s not as easy for Sol to socialize with kids her age as it would be if she went to school every day, or if we lived in a neighborhood teeming with little people. But there’s always a sacrifice with every choice we make in life. When Tree and I weigh what she gains with our lifestyle against what she loses, we feel good about our choice to raise her on the road.
Besides, with all the bullying, low performance, and high peer pressure these days, I’m not convinced that school, as it’s currently designed, is the best way for children to learn or be socialized anyway. The idea of making my child sit in a chair from 8-3, next to fifty of her closest ‘friends,’ to learn by rote, with only about an hour of free-time to eat lunch and play, doesn’t sound like a winning equation to me. And I loved school. But I had the privilege of going to a VERY small private school for most of my education–one that we couldn’t afford for Soleil anyway. These days it seems we treat education like factory farming: pack in as many kids as possible, cut costs at the expense of quality and humanity, and churn out a product that looks okay on the outside but is not as healthy or wholesome as it should be. Our children and teachers–and, maybe even our farm animals–deserve a system that’s more, I don’t know, ...Finnish. Okay, enough for now. (Clearly, I’m going to have to devote a whole essay to this subject.)
One thing Soleil will learn as a nomad is that to make and maintain friendships, she’ll have to extend herself. And, of course we’ll have to facilitate that.. But don’t we all? If we want to have a meaningful–and not forced or merely circumstantial–relationship with anyone or anything, even a plant, we need to nurture it, consciously and deliberately.
Just look at her nurture, Pepe. She’s a natural!
And, besides, if she were to spend all day penned up at school, what relationship to the world would she actually be developing? How to sit still and take tests? How to ‘fit in’ to a weird social hierarchy that values popularity over good character? Oh god, someone stop me! Anyhoo, the point is…
I’d rather her be outside, running and climbing and jumping in mud puddles, exploring the big wide world and testing her limits–learning how to be happy and at home with herself.