• Jody Kussin

#89 Getting To Know You...

#89 Family Matters

In These Times by Dr. Jody Kussin, November 8, 2020

It’s a funny time. Not funny ‘ha ha’ but funny, ‘what the heck is going on?’ Yesterday was a momentous day. Kamala is a role model now for women everywhere. Did you see the video of her great niece asking if she can grow up to be President AND an astronaut? (‘Yes’, says her aunt, ‘but you have to be 35 to be President.’) And who will be the role model and mentor for Kamala? I imagine she is especially sad, even amidst her joy, to not have her mom moving in with her in the days ahead. Meantime, she found out that she and “Joe” won while out jogging. And the little snippet of her reaction - her laughter, her sense of ‘for real!?!?’ and the fact that she looked like a natural woman, binding anxiety on a day of uncertainty, by running in the park? Priceless.

Meantime, half of the U.S. voting population voted one way, and half the other. More people voted than ever before, and the inspirational included the pollsters and polling commissioners who were working around the clock to ensure democracy by counting every vote. In fact, they are still counting the votes. We all now know geography tons better than a week ago, including the names of little counties in Arizona and Georgia and in particular, Pennsylvania. We also know that the next 70+ days will be challenging. A time to reap and a time to sow, says our President Elect. And while not explicitly part of the saying ‘….and a time to make friends with people different than ourselves.’

Our children are isolating and withdrawing, and we are worrying. We call one another – what can we do? She is so lonely. He is so sad. They are so irritable. We wonder – how do you teach a 6-year old how to make a friend, while living during a pandemic? How do you help your senior shake off the blues and get out of their bedroom?

We say to these children of ours, “Well, be nice to the new kid. Ask if she wants a zoom play date. See if he likes video games. Find out what they do after school for fun. See if they are in a pod we can join for a backyard playdate. Find out if s/he likes to roller blade or bake or do arts and crafts. See if s/he likes the same movies or tv shows you like. Find out what their favorite food is. Ask them if they have brothers or sisters. Ask if they grew up in this area or if they moved here at some point.” We advise, “Use your sense of humor. Make a study date. Meet at the park for an exercise class. Talk to a friend of a friend. Call your camp pals. Bake cupcakes and drop them at their front door. Surprise them with a funny meme.” We are saying…. Get to know them. Get to know them. Get to know them.”

These are sound parental directives and suggestions for us to issue to our children and I hear creative ideas every week from parents who are desperately trying to help provide some normalcy in a time of topsy turvy.

And now, now is the time. A time to make a new friend. A time to reach out. A time to embrace ‘other’ and find the common ground.

Listen. It was very close to a 50-50 vote. Most of us live in pockets of people with whom we share similarities, and the ‘other’ is not our actual neighbor. Likely we voted the same as many on our block. That’s ok. Let’s remember though, we all have relatives in Arkansas and Kansas and a Dakota state. Now is the time to call, check in, see how they are holding up. No one likes to lose. Let’s be respectful and not act smug or superior while making a new friend or deepening a connection with an old friend. Let’s see what we have in common (tough raising a kid when they have to do zoom school all day – yup – me too….worried about ever getting to travel to see grandchildren again – yup, me too….garden coming along ok – mosquitos all taking over – yup, me too, worried about my aging parents – yup, me too….dog getting into messes in this weather – yup, me too.)

Humans are wired to categorize and organize. We intuitively like to put things together, looking for the pattern and trying to forcefully design one if it is not readily apparent. We tend toward what looks and feels familiar. However, when we break it down, we can see we are each distinctly individuals and we are also all part of a larger whole. A whole that is much bigger than the sum of its parts, which you probably recall from recently teaching math to your twins.

As Simon and Garfunkel eloquently said in 1968, “we’ve ALL come, to look for America.”

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