A Pirate's Resources

Seeing friends in a new light

I recently heard from a mother, sharing her child’s experience with Pirate’s Guide. Overall, they enjoyed the material, but one exercise in particular had been difficult: within the “connections” chapter, there is an exercise asking them to list 5 friends. Her child did not have five friends, and so it was an understandably sore topic to work on. It broke my heart.

I immediately went my husband, and shared it with him, and since, when he isn’t being a notorious storytelling pirate captain, he is incredibly insightful, he had a few thoughts that I think are valuable.

It boils down to taking a step back, and redefining what we mean by “friends.” In the context of the connections' lesson, we are trying to point out how we have connections with people, and then what creates or is a result of those connections. We generally define a friend as someone with whom we have a mutual affection. But my husband remembered when our son was 2. He didn’t have many “real” friends at that age, but had a best friend: Goofy. We lived in southern California, and had seasons passes to Disneyland, and so went regularly. His favorite activity there was a dancing stage show starring Goofy. We went every single visit, and my son would sit in rapt attention before Goofy and his friends, and dance along, and then wait in line, EVERY TIME, so that he could get a hug or give a high five. At home, he would wear his Goofy jacket, talk about Goofy, and dance like Goof. He CONNECTED with Goofy, deeply. Goofy was a friend.

We also pondered how much our world, particularly right now with Covid isolation, has become increasingly online and “connected” via social media. We “friend” someone (a verb now) on social media, not because we have a mutual affection, but because we feel and want to be connected with either who they are or what they are doing. Often we don’t know these people we feel a kinship with. Like a character in a book whom we relate to, there are folks with youtube channels or instagram feeds who we respond to and want to “connect with” - even though it is one sided. I take weekly online art classes, and after a year of those, feel like the teacher is a “friend,” that I know her well, even though she has no idea I exist. While this isn’t a traditional “mutual affection” based friend, it does provide a genuine point of connection, something of a modern friend. I think too of all those kids who are playing video games and have “friends” out there in cyberspace that they play with.

So, in the context of the specific lessons on friends, what if friends was redefined in a way that each of us could relate to? Are there characters in a book or show that we connect with or feel close to? Special people who aren’t peers but that connect with us? Any of these might be considered friends, and looking at it in this light, might really turn it on its head - where we once struggled to find five friends, we might now have 20!

I don’t want in anyway to minimize the importance, value, or necessity of having in person, mutual friendships. But there are circumstances, seasons, and realities that may make that something rare in our lives, or in the lives of our children. Being open to viewing friend connections in a broader sense can open us up to receiving the gift that these “friends” can be.


Exercise 9 :: Connections :: HELP My mother's brother's uncle's dog's previous owner

The whole idea of “six degrees of separation” is grounded in the idea of connections. We are only six people away from anyone, it says. Well, that may or may not be true, but the story world is FULL of connections. There are connections between people (relationships), to objects, to places, to activities or hobbies.

Why is this important? Because in a well written story, everything has a connection in some way. Or, as we define it,
connections are all the ways different parts of the story come together. And this is important because all the parts of the story need to connect, relate, and come together. There shouldn’t be characters who don’t have a connection or function to play (needless to say, there are always background characters, but no main character, or identifiable character, should be superfluous). Anything that is not actually connected to the story should be eliminated, as it will be a distraction from the story.

In Real Life :: connections help us link things together, different relationships between characters, actions, objects, and places. We, ourselves, are connected to millions of things, in so many different ways. Understanding these connections is valuable because, like a well-written story, we want to live lives that are whole, cohesive, and meaningful. Knowing what our connections are gives us boundaries and can help us make decisions. If my connection with my friend is love of British literature, then I will not expect to go to a soccer game with her. That could be forcing a connection that might “break” the story. When we do something with someone, it creates a connection, even if we don’t intent it to. And if there are consequences to that, we have to abide by that. We choose things to be in our lives because we have (or want to have) a connection to them, and can eliminate those things that have no connection, or bad connections. We can use this idea to help our children make choices too.

Finding it in the Story :: in this chapter, you’ll see not only connections between characters (Monkey Mo Mo, Mini Mate, and their sister, Monkey Maya), but also connections (and backstory) as to why/how the monkeys relate to Scurvy Spat. In the previous backstory of First Mate, pg 81, you saw the connection between First Mate Manfred and the Captain. A subtle connection was made between Scurvy Spat and the monkeys when they disobeyed the Captain on pg 56. An even more subtle connection (subtle in that your student might not think of this as a connection, yet it is), would be the connection between their actions and the consequences. Challenge your student to keep a sharp eye out for connections and how they bring the story world together, causing characters to relate or things to happen.