what I want you to know: the isolation of being the new family in town


What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s post is by an anonymous reader.

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I would say that what I want you to know is that our family of six is new here; but you already know that. I would say that what I want you to know is that one set of our parents and my kids’ grandparents are 2000 miles away, and the other set is literally on the other side of the world; but you already know that. I would say that we are from another country, that we have no friends or family here, that we had our fourth baby in eight years only two weeks after we moved here; but you already know that. I would say that we would like to get established and make connections, but you already know that. I’ve told you at the Mom’s group where we meet at church. I’ve told you that while we waited for our sons to get done with swimming lessons. I’ve chatted with you when I gave your son a ride home from Boy Scouts.

So I guess what I want you to know is…We need water. We’re trying to put down roots in this new place, and we need the life-giving water of human kindness and contact.  We’re new here. We left everything and everyone dear to us behind. Not only that, but because of circumstances beyond our control, we have moved every two years for the last 10. We have been new that many times. We have transplanted that many times, and with each time it gets harder. This last time it was all I could do to turn and face the sun again and try again to reach into this unknown soil while we spread our arms and grew. This time my arms ache as they reach toward the sky. This time it has taken so much longer to bounce back to normal, to try to spread out.

I want you to know that we need people. Even though we have four kids and homeschool and life is fully of busyness, I still need people. There are days I feel like a dried up mummy, desperate for a drop of human contact outside of my own nuclear family. There are days I put the kids in the car and drive through the city – just to see people. I’m not asking for someone who will call me every day. I don’t want someone who will be at my house every morning for coffee. I’m not asking for a play date every week. I just want someone who I can see occasionally, to be in someone else’s house, to have an adult conversation, to make me feel that I’m not as invisible and alone as I feel; to make us feel like we matter to someone, and that someone noticed and cared that we were here.

We’ve been through this new-guy scenario several times already, so I know what it means when I invite you for coffee, and you say, “Yeah, we’ll have to do that sometime.” It means you’re not interested. I know what it means when I leave a message to invite you over for dinner, and you get back to me AFTER the date had passed to tell me you’d rather do coffee. It means don’t bother.  I know what it means when I ask you if you can come for a playdate….three different times….and you always have a reason you can’t come,  but never an alternate date. It means “I already have enough people in my life, thank you.” I know what it means when I call you up to say, “Hey, I’m passing by your house around 8:30 every morning for my morning walk. Would you care to join me to the end of your road and back?” and the best excuse you can come up with is your cousin’s wedding that weekend. I’m the one who stopped the van to chat with you last week when you were out for your hours-long bike ride with a baby, remember? I know it means I’ll have to look for friendship elsewhere. I know what it means when I invite 20 families from church to a holiday party, and only one manages to wheel in at the last second. It means we’re invisible.

I’m a nice person, I swear. I’m even interesting! But you’ll have to actually talk to me to figure that out.

I want you to know that I’m trying to stay positive and proactive. I catch my kids’ moments, their quotes, and our daily life and thoughts on a blog so the people around the world who love us and care can watch us grow up – even if it’s only through a computer screen. I want you to know that we reach out, we invite people (maybe you!), we go to the YMCA three nights each week, Boy Scouts one night a week, and home school get-togethers. We got to Mom’s Time Out at church, we host neighborhood dinners and have befriended another family in our cul-de-sac. But aside from that family, we haven’t been invited out by another family for nearly five years. We need some reciprocation. We can’t do it all alone.

I want you to know that I recognize it’s not all up to you, but you have no idea what a life-giving spark of joy you can give to someone just by reaching out a little bit. I know you have memories here, you have people here, you have places dear to you; and when you pass by somewhere in the city, or see an old friend on the street, you can say, “Hey, do you remember the time…?”  We don’t have that here. We drive for four days with four children under eight, and a dog, to get to people and places that remember us.  Do you think you could possibly let just a few crumbs drop from the table? We don’t have to have your holidays, your birthdays, or your Christmases. We would be happy with your off-days, your un-birthdays, and Christmas in July.

I want you to know that if I seem distant as I head out of church on Sunday, that I’m sorry and please don’t take it personally. Sunday is the worst day for loneliness and sometimes it’s hard to snap out of it. It’s a family day, and there are times when seeing grandparents and their kids and grandkids joining in worship together, caravaning to someone’s house, or planning a casual family dinner, leaves such an ache in my chest. Sunday is the day it hits home, and sometimes I sit and watch the families leaving together, so happy and so unaware of the treasure they have. We can only dream of being close to our families. Having someone that my kids run to with open arms, someone who calls them by name and tossles their hair, someone in this very city, is a dream of mine. Maybe someday it will be a reality. 

I want you to know that when you’re a person who I could reasonably expect to extend a hand of help or friendship – like the pastor’s wife, or someone who claims to have been in the same situation 10 years ago – you to me are a beacon of hope. And when you just carefreely and carelessly brush me off, it’s like a gut punch, and knocks the wind out of my sails . I’m not asking for someone who will call me every day. I don’t want someone who will be at my house every morning for coffee. I’m not asking for a play date every week. I just want someone who I can see occasionally, to be in someone else’s house, to have an adult conversation, to make me feel that I’m not as invisible and alone as I feel.

I want you to know that we are happy and hopeful. We have four adorable kids, and each other. Our home is a happy one, and we have a beautiful life. We adore the kids, marvel at them every day, and skype with our parents to share the beautiful moments.  At the same time, I dream and even ache to have this house filled to the brim with people. Facetime or Skype just doesn’t always cut it. I want real live people. And I haven’t given up hope. This summer we’re building a sort of tent-building in the back so we can accommodate more people at one time. I’m hoping that if we build it, you will come.

So I guess all that is to say, I want you to know that we’re the new guys, and we need a friend. And I’d be thrilled if you’d accept my dinner invitation – even at this late date.




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